I learned on Wednesday that my fellow UCLA Ph.D. Grad Shirley Sovorny died Oct. 20. Health economist Michael F. Cannon wrote a very thoughtful obituary and summary of some of the highlights of Shirley’s excellent work.

I’ll mention a few, focusing on things I didn’t know or knew only vaguely

His thesis

His dissertation sought to “explain why US policymakers have deviated from their usual policy of allowing free immigration. [of foreign‐​trained physicians] 1965 to 1980.” Without liberalization, the “phenomenal expansion of health care spending” after the creation of Medicare and Medicaid “could have led to deep queues or price increases” that would have angered consumers. Shirley found evidence that liberalized migration increased the supply of physicians and reduced the cost of physician services. He argued that domestic physicians are temporarily leaning toward liberalization because “in order for physicians to maximize their long-term income, they must avoid actions that would put pressure on consumer governments to repeal some of the laws that currently protect physicians from competition. “

Regulatory barriers to telehealth

Two years before anyone had heard of Covid-19, Shirley authored a study to remove regulatory barriers to telehealth and made the case for liberalizing telehealth with US Sen. Brian Schatz (D‑HI) at a briefing on Capitol Hill. After covid hit, he and me [Michael Cannon] Covid-19 demonstrates that clinician licensing reduces access to medical care; We have introduced exclusive certification options for clinician category and quality.

Shirley’s Disease and Kaiser Permanente Care

Shirley has battled multiple myeloma for over seven years, even participating in a clinical trial. I was happy to hear he was happy with the care he received; He liked to surprise managed-care skeptics by sharing his positive experience with Kaiser Permanente.

My own memory

In late December 1977, a few of us UCLAers gathered in New York for a meeting of the American Economics Association and later went to an Italian restaurant. A man was singing and playing his guitar while we ate and I got up the nerve to ask if I could sing a song. She said yes. So I started with a simple one, “King of the Road.” It was good and so I sang “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. A friend at our table told me that a mutual friend expressed her embarrassment but Shirley said things like, “That was great.” I know I made this about me, but it’s one of my fondest memories of the person Shirley was.

Anyway, I have a photo of a few of us with our professor, Jack Hirschleifer, before we went to dinner. Unfortunately, Shirley isn’t into it.

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