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  1. The outbreak of seasonal flu costs billions of dollars in health care utilization and lost productivity. Despite the effectiveness of vaccination and antiviral medications to prevent serious flu-related complications and slow down the spread of an influenza epidemic, only 52% of the U.S. population aged 6 months and older received flu vaccines in the 2019-20 flu season. In addition, a costly out-of-pocket expense results in fewer patients seeking treatment, leading to potential hospitalizations and even flu-related deaths. In this study, we develop an integrated healthcare insurance mechanism that optimizes two incentive policies, vaccination reward and cost-sharing, to alleviate the medical cost and disease burden while preventing the outbreak of seasonal influenza. We model the dynamic interaction between a single insurer and multiple insureds as a Stackelberg vaccination game; we then embed the game into an agent-based simulation to model the spread of flu in a population under different policies. Finally, we apply machine learning and simulation optimization to optimize healthcare incentive policies in a large-scale flu transmission simulation. Simulation results indicate that the proposed methodology efficiently identifies a set of good incentive policies under different scenarios of flu vaccine efficacy and reproduction numbers.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 25, 2023
  2. As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to expand, policymakers are striving to balance the combinations of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to keep people safe and minimize social disruptions. We developed and calibrated an agent-based simulation to model COVID-19 outbreaks in the greater Seattle area. The model simulated NPIs, including social distancing, face mask use, school closure, testing, and contact tracing with variable compliance and effectiveness to identify optimal NPI combinations that can control the spread of the virus in a large urban area. Results highlight the importance of at least 75% face mask use to relax social distancing and school closure measures while keeping infections low. It is important to relax NPIs cautiously during vaccine rollout in 2021.