This course will introduce students to the theory, practice and reform of healthcare systems. We will examine how such systems supposed to work, how they actually work, and how they can and cannot be reformed. Familiarity with the basics of health economics is highly relevant now that advanced countries spend an increasing proportion of their GDP to finance the healthcare sector. Understanding the complexities of problems related to the supply of and the demand for healthcare services is particularly important for post-communist economies, since in this area there are no ready-made Western models which can be adopted lock-stock-and-barrel by the late-comers. Throughout the course, it will be repeatedly shown that the dictum of Nobel-prize winner Kenneth Arrow still holds: „The desire for the prolongation of life … we may take to be one of the most universal of all human motives.”
The core body of the curriculum is closely integrated into the concept of evolutionary economics, the main tenet of which can be summarized in a short Darwinian dictum: “Life is about survival and reproduction, and not fitness or well-being.”
In very broad terms, this course aims to provide students with an understanding of how their general analytical economic skills can be applied in a socially sensitive, policy-related area, such as health care. Participants will realize quickly that the core concepts of economic science (e.g. scarcity, substitution, risk, cost-benefit analysis) are all applicable in this area, too. Economists agree that people react to incentives. Pain and the threat of death are very strong incentives. At the same time, however, other key concepts (e.g. consumer sovereignty) have only limited validity, because in contrast to most goods and services, the life and the health of individuals are not reproducible goods.
As already noted, one of the course’s aims is to familiarise students with the main tenets of evolutionary economics through the example of health economics. By the end of the course, students will have read a good selection of the most important papers produced by the most eminent health economist over the past 25 years. By doing so, they will learn the specialized terminology used by the medical profession – a language which is not easily understandable to laymen. Students will be also required to familiarise themselves with the most widely used statistical data provider institutions, such as the WHO, the World Bank, OECD Health Data Base, etc.
By the end of this course, students will be able to:
- formulate research questions designed to test, refine, and build theories in the area of health economics;
- interpret research findings and draw appropriate conclusions;
- evaluate critically the quality of research by others;
- formulate a complete and logical plan for data analysis used in their academic thesis during the 2nd year of the MA program.
Successful class interaction depends on all students being familiar with the assigned reading. Students who come to class unprepared to discuss the assigned materials not only diminish their own involvement with course but unfairly „free-ride” on the preparations of others. Attendance lists will be prepared on a regular basis.
All required readings will be provided in the Course Reader. Additional recommended materials will be provided by the instructor. A copy of the Reader will also be available in the CEU Library. All documents will be made available on the CEU’s E-learning website: http://ceulearning.ceu.edu/
Depending on actual course size, participants will have the possibility to prepare 15-20 minute life presentations (with slides and distributed handouts) on a pre-agreed topic. One week before the course ends, the participants are required to hand in an 8-10 page long essay on a pre-agreed topic. This essay should be of quantitative nature (but not necessarily econometric) analyzing the health status of the population in one country or a health relevant problem, such as smoking, obesity, etc. The timely delivery of the paper is a pre-condition to the written examination.
In early March, the course will end with a written examination based on 10-15 questions of different levels of complexity. The maximum number of points is equal to 100. This is a closed book exam. Coming to class is mandatory.
The assessment will take place according to the following proportions:
(1) Regular presence at the classes (mandatory, except for medical or other justifiable reasons): 0%
(2) Term paper (mandatory): 25%
(3) PowerPoint presentation (optional or mandatory depending on course’s size) 15%
(4) Written, closed book exam 60%