The TIAA Paul A. Samuelson Award for outstanding scholarly writing on lifelong financial security

Ralph S.J. Koijen, The University of Chicago, and Stijn G. Van Nieuwerburgh, Columbia University, won the 2020 TIAA Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security for their paper “Combining Life and Health Insurance,” published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Volume 135, Issue 2, May 2020, Pages 913–958.

Rapid medical advances over the past two decades have produced new treatments that result in significant and durable improvements in survival for patients with life-threatening illnesses. A major drawback, however, is that many of the new life-extending treatments are expensive. This paper identifies a new mechanism to ensure stress-free access to medical treatments that result in durable survival by involving life insurance companies. Life insurance policyholders benefit from the ability to finance medical care, and life insurance companies benefit from increased future premiums via longer-lived policyholders and a death benefit pushed further into the future.

According to Julie Agnew, one of the Samuelson Award judges, “It is not only the authors’ rigorous and detailed analyses that make this paper stand out, but the care the authors take to seek out and incorporate feedback from industry leaders to ensure their recommendations are practical and actionable.”

“I am grateful for this recognition and hope that our insights lead to financial innovation that improves the health and wellbeing of households," said Dr. Koijen. “Our work suggests life insurers have an incentive to help their policyholders achieve longer and healthier lives,” added Dr. Van Nieuwerburgh. “We predict that boundaries between life and health insurance industries will erode to the benefit of society."

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