For Immediate Release | December 11, 2019


Devin Cowens at or at (202) 243-7283

The National Academy of Social Insurance announces Michael Stepner as the winner of the 2020 John Heinz Dissertation Award. Stepner will receive a $3,500 prize and travel expenses to Washington, DC, where he will receive the award on March 4, as part of the Academy’s 2020 conference on Healthcare Coverage and Costs: Assessing Medicare-Based Approaches. He joins a prestigious network of over 40 previous Heinz Dissertation Award recipients – top scholars in social insurance and closely related fields. Stepners’s dissertation, “Essays on Health and Social Insurance,” was submitted for his doctorate in Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Stepner was nominated for this honor by Amy Finkelstein, Professor of Economics at MIT.

“The selection committee was deeply impressed by the quality of Dr. Stepner’s dissertation,” said Ezra Golberstein, Chair of the 2020 Heinz Dissertation Award Committee, and Associate Professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “His work advances the theory of optimal design of social insurance benefits, and his quantitative analyses deliver convincing and policy-relevant evidence of the effects of both public and private insurance benefits for health and disability.”

The 2020 Heinz Dissertation Award Selection Committee (see list below) also gave an honorable mention to Caitlin Carroll for her dissertation, “Essays on Healthcare Provider Markets.” Carroll wrote the dissertation while she was a doctoral student in health policy at Harvard University. Her thesis was nominated by David Cutler, Professor of Applied Economics at Harvard University.

“Michael Stepner and Caitlin Carroll will no doubt make significant contributions to social insurance research and policy in the coming years, as have many other previous Heinz Dissertation Award recipients,” said William J. Arnone, Chief Executive Officer of the National Academy of Social Insurance. “We are excited, with support from the Heinz Family Foundation, to recognize and help advance the work of these two very promising scholars.”

About the John Heinz Dissertation Award

The National Academy of Social Insurance bestows the John Heinz Dissertation Award in honor of the late Senator John Heinz, who was a founding member of the Academy and an advocate for healthcare reform and social insurance. The Award, made possible by the Heinz Family Foundation, recognizes and promotes outstanding doctoral research by new scholars focusing on policy questions in social insurance and related areas, including health, aging, and economic opportunities. These are all areas that were important to John Heinz, who is also remembered as a champion of the elderly. His long list of political activities included: Chairmanship of the Special Committee on Aging; Chairmanship of the Republican Conference Task Force on Job Training and Education; membership in the National Commission on Social Security Reform, and the National Commission on Health Care Reform. Senator Heinz died in a tragic airline accident in 1991.

Teresa Heinz Kerry, chair of the Heinz Family Foundation, said of Senator Heinz: “In the performance of his duties, both as a public servant and as a philanthropist, he was not merely tireless, he was joyfully ferocious, himself the embodiment of radiant living.”

Nominations for the annual Heinz Dissertation Award are reviewed by a national, multi-disciplinary committee, chaired by Ezra Golberstein, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Other members of the 2020 committee:

  • Jason Barabas, Professor of Political Science at Stony Brook University and winner of the 2001 Heinz Dissertation Award;
  • Jennifer Erkulwater, Professor of Political Science at the University of Richmond and winner of the 2003 Heinz Dissertation Award;
  • Monica Galizzi, Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Lowell;
  • Lauren Nicholas, Assistant Professor, Departments of Health Policy & Management and Surgery, Johns Hopkins University and winner of the 2009 Heinz Dissertation Award;
  • Margaret Simms, Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute (retired); and
  • Jeffrey Wenger, Senior Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation and faculty fellow at American University.

The Academy will be accepting nominations for the 2021 John Heinz Dissertation Award in the late summer/early autumn of 2020. To obtain application forms and additional information, please visit the Student Opportunities section of the Academy’s website:

For more information about the Academy’s upcoming policy conference on Healthcare Coverage and Costs: Assessing Medicare-Based Approaches, March 4-5, 2020, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, please visit:


Since its founding in 1986, the National Academy of Social Insurance has provided rigorous inquiry and insights into the functioning of our nation’s social insurance programs – Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, and Workers’ Compensation. Comprised of over 1,000 of the nation’s top experts in social insurance and related policies and programs, the Academy studies how social insurance can continue to meet the changing needs of American families, employees, and employers, including new frontiers for social insurance. To learn more about the Academy’s work, please visit, or follow @socialinsurance on Twitter.

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