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Home > Academics > Undergraduate > Economics >
Course Description

Economics 140
Health Economics

In this course, you will be introduced to the economics of health and healthcare. You will learn to think critically about healthcare and health policy by applying concepts familiar from microeconomic theory to healthcare, a sector that accounts for nearly a seventh of U.S. GDP. The analytical skills and knowledge you acquire will benefit you in your life as a consumer of healthcare, as a voter or policymaker, and perhaps in your employment in a health-related field. You will also improve your ability to seek and present information in a systematic way.

We will examine the demand for and supply of healthcare, with attention to the special characteristics of healthcare as a commodity. We will explore the determinants of prices and wages in the healthcare sector, and investigate why healthcare spending has grown so rapidly. We will consider the economic roles of the players in a healthcare system: government, insurers, providers, and the makers of drugs and medical devices. We will analyze the implications of uncertainty, of informational asymmetries, and of the incentives facing the various actors in a healthcare system. We will discuss the key institutions that comprise a healthcare system, the evolution of those institutions in the U.S., and some of the noteworthy differences between the U.S. system and the systems of other countries.

By the end of the course, you should be able to think more critically about healthcare and health policy. You should know much of the terminology of health economics, and be able to understand much of the professional literature in the areas of health policy and health services. Your success in achieving these goals will be assessed through weekly reading assignments, a final exam, a short research paper, an oral presentation, and a project. This project is a semester-long compilation of a dossier on economic aspects of a specific health problem. You are expected to draw the elements of your dossier from the medical literature, research reports, government publications, and the news media.

Textbook: Health Economics (4th edition), by Phelps.

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P: 510.430.2194

Last Updated: 6/22/17