Richard M. Scheffler is one of the first economists and health care policy fellows to study the potential impact of using physician assistants (PAs) in the delivery of health care in the United States. He accomplished much of his pioneering research at three different universities. Two of these Universities, Duke and George Washington, had established PA programs in 1965 and 1972 respectively. Scheffler’s first exposure to PAs was at Duke University in the early 1970s. He performed his first national study on PAs in 1972, describing the role and practice characteristics of a sample of 150 PAs. In the mid 1970s, he surveyed physicians to determine their willingness to employ PAs in their practices. The results revealed an unconditional demand for over 20,000 PAs at a time when there were only 5,000 formerly trained PAs in practice and fewer than 2000 being graduated annually. Scheffler continued his survey of PAs while a member of the faculty of the Department of Economics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, from 1972 to 1976 and later at George Washington University, from 1978 to 1981. It was during this time that he worked with various study groups to develop health care policy statements regarding the need for more primary care physicians and the use of new health practitioners to extend their services, especially in rural communities. His article titled A Manpower Policy for Primary Health Care published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1978 put forth recommendations by the American Academy of Sciences to improve the delivery of primary care services. One recommendation was to use a team approach to the delivery of primary care. In the article, Scheffler noted the positive impact that passage of the 1977 Rural Health Clinic Services Act (PL95-210) would have on the employment of new health practitioners since the Act provided Medicare reimbursement of PAs and nurse practitioners (NPs) services in rural clinics.
Scheffler was born on July 11, 1943 and spent his formative years in Brooklyn, NY. He received a BS degree in 1965 from Hostra University, Long Island, NY and advanced degrees from Brooklyn College (MA, Economics) in 1967 and from New York University (PhD, Economics) in 1971. Scheffler has authored or co-authored over 150 publications and served on numerous editorial boards of academic journals. He has been a consultant for major health organizations and agencies and served on national and international committees investigating and making recommendations about the delivery of efficient, cost-effective health care services.
Currently, Scheffler is Director of the Global Center for Health Economics and Policy Research and Distinguished Professor of Health Economics and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He holds the Chair in Health Care Markets & Consumer Welfare. He is also a tenured faculty member of the Graduate School of Public Health and the Goldman School of Public Policy, where he teaches health economics. Scheffler has been a World Bank Visiting Scholar, Human Resources Advisor to the World Health Organization, a Fulbright Scholar, a Scholar in Residence at the Institute of Medicine-National Academy of Sciences, a Resident at the Rockefeller Bellagio Center in Italy, a Visiting Professor at the University of Barcelona and University of Pompeu Fabr in Spain, and a Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics. In 2003, Dr. Scheffler served as President for the International Health Economics Association’s (iHEA). In 2004, he received the Carl A. Taube Award from the American Public Health Association for distinguished contributions to the field of mental health services research. He has published more than 150 papers and has edited and written six books. Dr. Scheffler’s recent book, Is There a Doctor in the House? Market Signals and Tomorrow’s Supply of Doctors, reviews decades of misguided public policies that have caused the United States health care system to deliver the right number of doctors, of the right specialty, in the right locations. Once again, he advocated a team approach to the delivery of health care and policy changes necessary to make this happen on a larger scale.
Acknowledgments: This biographical sketch was prepared by Roderick Hooker and Reginald Carter with the assistance of Richard Scheffler and was submitted to the Society on March 30, 2012. The photograph is courtesy of Dr. Scheffler.