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Jonathan  Kolstad - Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley, CA, US

Jonathan Kolstad Jonathan  Kolstad

Associate Professor | Egon & Joan Von Kaschnitz Distinguished Professorship | Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley




Areas of Expertise (4)

Health Economics

Industrial Organization

Public Economics

Applied Microeconomics


Jonathan Kolstad is an Associate Professor of Economic Analysis and Policy at Berkeley Haas and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is also the Co-director of the Health Initiative at the UC Berkeley Opportunity Lab.

He is an economist whose research interests lie at the intersection of health economics, industrial organization, and public economics. He is particularly interested in finding new models and unique data that can account for the complexity of markets in health care, notably the role of information asymmetries and incentives. He has studied the impact of quality information on demand, as well as intrinsic surgeon incentives. In a series of papers, he has evaluated the impact of the Massachusetts health insurance expansion on a variety of outcomes. He has also gathered unique data to understand the role of information frictions in consumer decision making in insurance markets and on medical treatments.

Kolstad was awarded the Arrow Award from the International Health Economics Association for the best paper in health economics in 2014 and the NIHCM Foundation Research Award in 2016. He is also a Co-founder and was Chief Data Scientist at Picwell. He received his PhD from Harvard University and BA from Stanford University.

Education (2)

Harvard University: PhD

Stanford University: BA

Honors & Awards (11)

ASHEcon Medal


Berkeley Haas Schwabacher Fellowship

2017, 2018

NIHCM Foundation Health Care Research Award

2016, 2018

Barbara and Gerson Bakar Faculty Fellow, UC Berkeley

2015 - 2018

American Economic Review, “Excellence in Refereeing Award”

2016, 2017

Mark A. Satterthwaite Award for Outstanding Research in Health Care Markets, Kellogg School, Northwestern


Arrow Award, International Health Economics Association


Claude Marion Endowed Faculty Scholar, Wharton School

2012 - 13

W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, Early Career Research Grant


Deans Recognition for Teaching, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania


3rd Biennial Student Paper Award, American Society of Health Economists


Selected External Service & Affiliations (1)

  • 2018 - present, Co-Editor, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy

Positions Held (1)

At Haas since 2015

2017 - present, Associate Professor, Haas School of Business 2015 – 2016, Assistant Professor, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley 2009 – 2015, Assistant Professor, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania 2013 – 2015 Co-Founder and Chief Data Scientist, Picwell Inc. 2002 – 2004 Analyst (Strategy Consulting and Bus Dev.), Broadlane Inc.

Media Appearances (13)

Biggest health insurer plans to deny ER bills if it doubts you had an emergency

Ars Technica  online


Doctors and hospitals are condemning plans by UnitedHealthcare—the country’s largest health insurance company—to retroactively deny emergency medical care claims to members if UHC decides the care wasn’t actually an emergency. When Anthem announced a similar policy in 2018, the insurer got so much backlash that it scrapped the idea. Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Kolstad, who holds the Egon & Joan Von Kaschnitz Distinguished Professorship, said even the threat of a policy like that can discourage members from seeking care. “You may get as much or more bang for your buck frankly by just telling people you’re not going to pay,” he said. “Even if, at the end of the day, you do pay.”

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It’s Not Just You: Picking a Health Insurance Plan Is Really Hard

The New York Times  online


Recent research co-authored by Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Kolstad, the Egon & Joan Von Kaschnitz Distinguished Professorship, found that only 5% of Dutch customers did a better job at choosing an ideal health insurance plan than they would have by choosing at random. In another paper, Kolstad found that even many professionals who help people choose health plans perform substantially worse than a computer algorithm.

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Workplace testing for COVID-19 is still limited

Marketplace  online


With the average cost for the gold standard COVID-19 test around $100, most companies have done a simple cost-benefit analysis, which may be why we haven’t seen widespread surveillance testing among some of our most vulnerable workers. This is the inherent problem with relying on the private sector to take care of the public good, said Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Kolstad, The Egon & Joan Von Kaschnitz Distinguished Professorship in the Economic Analysis and Policy group. "You know we can’t expect the C-suite to be epidemiologists."

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The Plan That Could Give Us Our Lives Back

The Atlantic  online


Mass, high-frequency testing could bring the pandemic to heel while we wait for a vaccine, experts say. Assoc. Professors Jonathan Kolstad and Ned Augenblick have developed a strategy to massively increase COVID-19 testing by efficiently pooling samples with the aid of machine learning. It's being tested at a network of nursing homes near Boston.

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Here’s one way to make daily COVID-19 testing feasible on a mass scale

MIT Technology Review  online


In this op-ed, Jonathan Kolstad, Ned Augenblick, associate professors at Berkeley Haas, and Ziad Obermeyer of the School of Public Health, discuss how pooling tests with the help of machine learning can allow us to safely reopen without a vaccine. Their research found that if we combine machine learning with test pooling, large populations can be tested weekly or even daily, for as low as $3 to $5 per person per day.

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Federal Officials Turn to a New Testing Strategy as Infections Surge

The New York Times  online


The White House has cleared the way for pooled testing for COVID-19, which vastly increases testing capacity by grouping samples together. Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Kolstad and Assoc. Prof. Ned Augenblick, along with Ziad Obermeyer of the School of Public Health and economics PhD student AO Wong, have developed a strategy that combines AI with pooled testing and lowers costs to as little as $3/person per day.

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Looking forward: How can we safely reopen the economy?

UC Berkeley News  online


“One size does need to fit all for at least large swaths of the population,” said associate professor Jonathan Kolstad, a health economist with joint appointments at Berkeley Haas and in the Department of Economics. “Everyone’s behavior affects everyone else. (Reopening) in the absence of any sort of coordination is an incredibly costly strategy.”

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A health insurer tells patients it won't pay their E.R. bills, then pays them anyway

The New York Times  online


Jonathan Kolstad said this policy may discourage some patients from going to the emergency room for less serious complaints. “You may get as much or more bang for your buck frankly by just telling people you’re not going to pay,” he said. “Even if, at the end of the day, you do pay.”

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40 Under 40 List

San Francisco Business Times  online


Meet the dynamic and exciting young business leaders honored on this year's 40 Under 40 list.

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Can Amazon and Friends Handle Health Care? There’s Reason for Doubt

The New York Times  online


“They contribute in the small wins,” said Jonathan Kolstad, an associate professor of business at the University of California, Berkeley. “But those tend to be swamped by growth in health care, which is so high. They’re not silver bullets.”

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When High Deductibles Hurt: Even Insured Patients Postpone Care

Kaiser Health News  online


Jonathan Kolstad, associate professor of economics at UC-Berkeley’s business school and co-author of the study, said patients dropped both needed care, such as diabetes medication, and potentially unnecessary care, such as imaging for headaches.

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Repeal of Affordable Care Act will mean economic losses for state, study predicts

The Daily Californian  online


“(The study) has to make a number of assumptions, which is required here because we don’t know what repeal would look like,” said Jonathan Kolstad, assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “We should take away (from the study) that there is a lot to be lost from any repeal, but also thinking about how the state is going to respond to potentially reduce some of the effect.”

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​The painful rise of high-deductible health insurance

CBS News  online


The latter, it turns out. Consumers tend to respond to higher deductibles by cutting back across the board, regardless of whether the treatments are useful or potentially wasteful, according to a paper from Handel and fellow researchers Jonathan Kolstad and Zarek Brot-Goldberg at Berkeley and Amitabh Chandra at Harvard University, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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Selected Papers & Publications (9)

Information Frictions and Adverse Selection: Policy Interventions in Health Insurance Markets

Review of Economics and Statistics (forthcoming)

Jonathan T. Kolstad, Ben Handel and Johannes Spinnewijn


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What Does a Deductible Do? The Impact of Cost-Sharing on Health Care Prices, Quantities and Spending Dynamics

Quarterly Journal of Economics

Jonathan T. Kolstad, Zarek Brot-Goldberg, Amitabh Chandra and Ben Handel


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Mandate-Based Health Reform and the Labor Market: Evidence from the Massachusetts Health Insurance Reform

Journal of Health Economics

Jonathan T. Kolstad and Amanda Kowalski


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Health Insurance for "Humans": Information Frictions, Plan Choice, and Consumer Welfare

American Economic Review

Jonathan T. Kolstad and Ben Handel)


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Adverse Selection and an Individual Mandate: When Theory Meets Practice

American Economic Review,

Jonathan T. Kolstad, Martin Hackmann and Amanda Kowalski


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Information and Quality When Motivation is Intrinsic: Evidence from Surgeon Report Cards

American Economic Review

Jonathan T. Kolstad


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Consumers’ Misunderstanding of Health Insurance

Journal of Health Economics

Jonathan T. Kolstad, George Loewenstein, Joelle Friedman, Barbara McGill, Sarah Ahmad, Suzanne Linck, Stacey Sinkula, John Beshears, James J. Choi, David Laibson, Brigitte C. Madrian, John A. List, and Kevin G. Volpp


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The Impact of Health Care Reform On Hospital and Preventative Care: Evidence from Massachusetts

Journal of Public Economics

Jonathan T. Kolstad and Amanda Kowalski


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Input Constraints and the Efficiency of Entry: Lessons From Cardiac Surgery

American Economic Journal: Economic Policy

Jonathan T. Kolstad, David Cutler, and Robert Huckman


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Teaching (3)

Health Economics and Policy

Undergraduate, PhD

eHealth: Business Models and Impact


Big Data and Better Decisions