Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

In Memoriam: Willard G. Manning, 1946-2014

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Jan• 25•15

In November, Willard Manning passed away.  I met Dr. Manning as he was a lecturer at the European Science Days summer school in Steyr, Austria.  iHEA has put together a nice in memoriam article and I have an sample of that below.  I will echo that although Dr. Manning was best know for his work on the RAND Health Insurance Experiment, his most lasting contributions to the health economics field are likely in his work as a leading health econometrician.


Will was probably best and most widely known for his work on the RAND Health Insurance Experiment (HIE). Not only has this work on the RAND HIE been hugely influential in academic and policy thinking about insurance design and its implications (e.g. Manning et al., 1987; Newhouse et al., 1981), it also generated a series of important methodological contributions that have had lasting impact on the empirical practice of health economics and health services research (e.g. Duan et al., 1983, 1984). While not his best known work from the RAND HIE project, my all-time favorite Will Manning paper – and, I’ve learned recently, others’ favorite as well – is Manning et al., 1982. Its lessons about health status measurement and prediction vs. postdiction are still essential considerations in much empirical research in our field.

Beyond and largely after the RAND HIE work, Will made important substantive contributions to an extraordinary number of areas in health economics including, but not limited to: mental health (Keeler, Manning, and Wells, 1988); tobacco and alcohol use, and poor health habits (e.g. Farrell, Manning, and Finch, 2003; Manning, Keeler, et al., 1989, 1991; Manning, Blumberg, and Moulton, 1995; Wasserman, Manning, et al., 1991); rural healthcare (e.g. Moscovice et al., 1995); health insurance theory and design (e.g. Ellis and Manning, 2007; Manning and Marquis, 1996; Zweifel and Manning, 2002); hospital-based healthcare delivery (e.g. Meltzer, Manning, et al. 2002); and healthcare disparities (e.g. Cook and Manning, 2009). Will’s research also provided major advances in the conceptual and statistical underpinnings of cost-effectiveness analysis (e.g. DeLeire and Manning, 2004; Luce, Manning, et al., 1996; Weinstein and Manning, 1997). There is no question that Will’s applied work has had significant influence on the way policymakers think about the costs of illness, taxation of unhealthy commodities, design of health insurance, healthcare access, and many other important policy domains.

In addition to his applied work, Will also made prominent contributions to the everyday empirical toolkit of health economists and health services researchers. Indeed, in some circles Will was best known and properly regarded as the field’s top “health econometrician”. His applied work itself generated significant methodological advances, including the RAND HIE work mentioned above and quantile and count data regression applications tailored to health economics applications (e.g. Manning, Blumberg, and Moulton, 1995; Manning, Keeler, et al., 1991). Beyond these, Will was responsible for developing many of the methods still commonly used to analyze health care cost or spending outcomes (e.g. Basu and Manning, 2009; Basu, Polsky, and Manning, 2011; Manning, 1998; Manning and Mullahy, 2001; Veazie, Manning, and Kane, 2002).

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