RIP Dorothy Rice, Pioneer in Health

We were saddened to hear of the passing this weekend of Dorothy Rice, 94, a world renowned medical economist and health statistician, who served on the Health Access Foundation board for over a decade until 2015.

UPDATED: Here’s the New York Times obituary.

Professor Dorothy P. Rice was Professor Emerita of Medical Economics in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and at the Institute for Health & Aging at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Rice authored more than 200 monographs, books, articles, and book chapters on the economics of medical care, aging, chronic illness, disability, health statistics, and various cost-of-illness studies. She has been honored for her contributions with election to the Institute of Medicine, the Association for Health Services Research Presidential Award for leadership and contributions to health services research, The American Public Health Association Sedgwick Memorial Medal, the UCSF Medal, and the 2013 William B. Graham Prize for Health Services Research.

In addition to her academic work on health care, tobacco control, and the like, her first career was serving in leadership positions in the Federal government, serving as Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Research and Statistics in the Social Security Administration.

As Director of the National Center for Health Statistics in the Johnson Administration, where she led in the development and management of a nationwide healthcare information system–and she played a pioneering role in developing health and social programs including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.


Her long experience in the effort for health reform was very helpful during her tenure on the Health Access Foundation board in her 80s and 90s, providing perspective on our current efforts to build on the progress in Medicare and Medicaid. This interview with Capital Public Radio during the rollout of the ACA was an example of the perspective she brought. In board meetings, she was delighted with the progress we were finally making on covering the uninsured, toward a universal system.

Some of her work will continue at the Dorothy Rice Center for Health Economics in the Institute for Health & Aging at the University of California, San Francisco, which was named in her honor in 1999. We at Health Access will also work to continue her vision to which she contributed greatly throughout her impactful life.