Health Economics
Spring 2008 GMU Syllabus

Economics 496-003 & 895-006, meets Thursday, 4:30-7:10pm, in the main room of Carow Hall. (The class was originally scheduled for Robinson A, Room 210.)

Instructor: Robin D. Hanson, Associate Professor, Economics (,
Office Hours: Officially Mon 6:00-7:00pm, Th 3:00-4:00pm, but I'm usually in at 10A Carow Hall. Email or call ahead (703-993-2326) if you want to be sure.
Catalog Entry:

Econ 496, 895 Health Economics (3:3:0). Prerequisites: ECON 306. Determinants of Health. Supply, Demand, and Institutions of Health Insurance and Care. Evaluation of Market Failure Rationales for Regulation.
Required Texts:
Shannon Brownlee, Overtreated, Bloomsbury, 2007, ISBN: 1-58234-580-5. Sample price: $19.
Joseph P. Newhouse And The Insurance Experiment Group, Free For All? Lessons from the RAND Health Insurance Experiment, Harvard University Press, 1993, ISBN: 0-674-31914-1, Sample Price $27.
Reccomended Texts:
Sherman Folland, Allen C. Goodman, Miron Stano, Economics of Health and Health Care, 4th Edition, Prentice Hall Business Publishing, 2007, ISBN: 0-13-100067-5, Sample Price $158.
Charles E. Phelps, Health Economics, Addison Wesley Publishing, 2003, ISBN: 0-321-06898-X, Sample Price $145.
Goal of Class
For undergraduates: To become familiar with basic facts and issues in health economics, and to be able to make an economically-coherent defense of one's opinions on health policy questions.
For graduate students: To in addition write a coherent research (not term) paper related to health economics.
Assignments: Defended Opinion Topics
  1. Should we reduce medical subsidies to instead pay for higher scores on physical fitness tests?
  2. Should the U.S. adopt the following package of changes: move health insurance regulation from states to the federal level, cancel any rules requiring health plans to allow patients direct access to specialists, and only have mandated treatments for contagious conditions?
  3. Should faith healers be legal? Consider these sub-issues: should they be able to charge for their services, treat children or only adults, use drugs or devices or only words and touching?
Due Dates: Grade Weights: (depend on which class you enroll in)
  1. 496: Class Participate 5%, 13% per Quiz, 13% per Defended Opinions, 17% final.
  2. 895: 1/2 of grade above items (held to a higher standard), 1/2 research paper.
WeekLecture Topic
Jan 24 Overview of Health Economics. What Makes Us Healthy?
Jan 31 More What Makes Us Healthy?
Feb 7 Health Altruism (Briggman guest lecture)
Feb 14 Does Medicine Help Health?
Feb 21 Drugs (Tabarrok guest lecture)
Feb 28 Health Externalities
Mar 6 Demand for Health and Medicine
Mar 13 Spring Break
Mar 20 Supply of Medicine
Mar 27 Health Insurance
Apr 3 Variation in Quality of Medicine
Apr 10 Licensure, Certification, and Bans
Apr 17 Other Ways to Get Information on Quality
Apr 24 Explaining Health Strangeness
May 1 No Class

Lecture Readings and Sources

On the web, this links to a page of sources, most of which have links.

Disability Notice

If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at 703.993.2474. All academic accommodations must be arranged through that office.