New Kennedy School Dean Urges Finance Ministers to Work with Health Ministers

One of any finance minister’s major challenges is balancing the intersection of health care policy and government financing. Changing health priorities and spending can put pressure on the most carefully crafted budget plans. The world-wide push for Universal Health Coverage is an example, changing demographic and disease profiles (particularly in emergent and developing nations) is another.

Douglas Elmendorf, new Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, in remarks to the MLIH Ministerial Forum for Finance Ministers, advised ministers to follow four key pointers in managing the national budget: collaborate with the health minister; play a deciding role in allocating funding for health care; take an active role in oversight of the health systems; lead in explaining to other legislators and the electorate the allocation of funds across health and other sectors. Investments in health are critical to improve the health of citizens, can improve the “health” of the budget and create long term economic growth, Dean Elmendorf said.

Current funding activities affect the trajectory of future spending Elmendorf warned. Finance ministers must weigh the benefits of health care spending, as well as the costs. Finance ministers are better informed to explain tradeoffs and opportunity costs of investments in various sectors in the push for economic growth and development.