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From house calls to tax reform: SIEPR summit gathers leading economists at Stanford

Economists and business leaders tackle health policy, tax reform, the future of the euro, online learning and other top money matters at the SIEPR Economic Summit.

An MRI scheduled for 2 a.m.? House calls by doctors?

These are some of the big transformations to U.S. health care that may be on the horizon as hospitals seek to trim costs and the Affordable Care Act is implemented, said renowned bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel during a presentation at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

Steve CastilloAlvin Roth speaking at SIEPR summit

Nobel laureate Alvin Roth, a Stanford professor in economics, discusses his research on matching the sick with kidney donors during the SIEPR Economic Summit.

"I think house calls are coming back," Emanuel told the audience, adding that doctors – and the changes they make – are key to U.S. prosperity.

The daylong SIEPR Economic Summit brought experts from around the country to Stanford to offer their opinions and discuss their research on the leading issues affecting the economy.

Emanuel was joined onstage by Mark McClellan, an economist at the Brookings Institution and a former Stanford associate professor, who said building health insurance exchanges for buying coverage will be "a slow and bumpy process."

How to set up the exchanges is currently being debated at the state and national level.

Controlling the costs of health care and devising new ways to treat people were running themes throughout the conference that also addressed the economics of climate change, the future of Europe, India's economy, online learning and comprehensive tax reform.

Nobel laureate Kenneth Arrow, a Stanford professor emeritus of economics, introduced colleague Alvin Roth, who last year also received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, for designing systems that match "buyers" and "sellers," such as kidney donors to sick patients or medical residents with hospitals.

Roth spoke of the kidney donation match system and raised the question of ethics in exchanges.

"Why do we have laws against simply buying and selling kidneys?" he asked.

In the wide-ranging conference, George Shultz, the former secretary of labor, treasury and state, gave his perspective from the audience during a discussion about the future of Europe.

Shultz, an honorary chairman of SIEPR, urged strategists and politicians to remember history when forming policy, reminding conference-goers that the euro was created to avoid another European war. He said it was a mistake to only talk about the euro crisis as an economic one.

"This has emotional depth," he said.

The sessions, which were by invitation only, were kicked off by remarks from Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive of Pacific Investment Management Co., the world's largest manager of bond funds.

Thomas L. Friedman, a foreign columnist at the New York Times, closed out the day with a keynote address. 

See videos of the summit speakers on the SIEPR website.