For Immediate Release | December 12, 2023


Ariella Jailal at

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder in Residence at PolicyLink and David Blumenthal, Harvard Chan School of Public Health and Samuel O. Thier Professor of Medicine and Professor of Health Policy, emeritus, at the Harvard Medical School, each received the 2023 Robert M. Ball Award from the National Academy of Social Insurance at an event held on November 7th. Over one-hundred guests were in attendance at the Kennedy Center. Due to Covid-19, David Blumenthal was honored in absentia.

Speakers described how both honorees continue to make innovative contributions to social insurance and related policy issues to help improve the well-being of millions of people on key issues of economic and health security and racial justice. Mandy Cohen, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who spoke virtually as part of the award presentation to Blumenthal, said: “David’s been a leader in health policy for decades. He’s not just a beautiful writer but his clarity of thought and his analysis of what’s happening around us, the ability to sort of see into the future and help us think about the steps we can take to make this system better and work for everyone, is just so impressive and something I have tried to learn from every day.” David Blumenthal’s pre-recorded acceptance remarks iterated the origins of Social Security under Franklin D. Roosevelt and shared a hopeful message for the continued expansion of health insurance to improve the coverage and care of chronically ill individuals. He stated, “Voters are the engine for universal coverage” and “The goal now is to make the insurance system cheaper, better and simple – that is the agenda that our now robust cohort of health policy makers will be pursuing going forward.”

Lynette Rawlings, President and CEO of the Policy Academies, speaking as part of the award presentation for Angela Glover Blackwell, said: “Angela was not only the first to name racial equity as being essential to building a just society, [but] she also constructed an intellectual framework around this approach and with PolicyLink, backed that up with rigorous, data-driven analyses. Angela’s call was to be deliberate, intentional, and bold in creating a just and fair society that works for all.” Closing her acceptance speech, Angela Glover Blackwell shared, “Hope is a discipline that includes having a North Star, gathering the information and data about what’s going on, where do we need to go, finding things that work, turning those into policy and always remembering that it’s our mutuality and our sense of self-governance to be able to serve our mutuality and well-being, this is what we’re looking for in democracy.”

Since 2004, the Academy has presented the Robert M. Ball Award to individuals whose recent work has made a significant impact on the U.S. social insurance system. This award honors Bob Ball, Commissioner of Social Security (1962-1973). For over 60 years, Bob Ball worked tirelessly to advance our nation’s social insurance programs.

Angela Glover Blackwell founded PolicyLink in 1999 to advance racial and economic equity for all. Under Angela’s leadership, PolicyLink gained national prominence in the movement to use public policy to improve access and opportunity for all low-income people and communities of color, particularly in the areas of health, housing, transportation, and infrastructure. Angela is also the host of the Radical Imagination podcast and Professor of Practice at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkley.

David Blumenthal served as the President of the Commonwealth Fund from 2013 to 2023. From 2009 to 2011 he served as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology under President Barack Obama. In this role, Blumenthal led one of the largest public investments in technology in the nation’s history, modernizing the healthcare IT sector. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and serves on multiple editorial boards, including the New England Journal of Medicine and its new offshoot journal on artificial intelligence.

Photos from the event are available on the Academy’s website.

Since the National Academy of Social Insurance was founded in 1986, it has provided rigorous inquiry and insights into the functioning of our nation’s social insurance programs – Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, and Workers’ Compensation. Now comprised of over 1,200 of the nation’s top experts in social insurance and related policies and programs, the Academy studies how social insurance will meet the changing needs of American families, employees, and employers. The Academy also looks at new frontiers for social insurance, including areas of uninsured or underinsured economic risks. To learn more about the Academy’s work, please visit, or follow @socialinsuranceon Twitter. 

See related news: News About NASI

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