Course Outline
Public Affairs 599 F, Spring 2009
Health Economics and Policy

Instructor: Melissa Knox

Office: Parrington Room 406
Office Hours: TBA
Telephone: (206) 221-0314

Meeting Times and Locations

Parrington Room 106

11:30-12:50 T-Th

Why is health care so expensive in the U.S.?  Does everybody really need health insurance?  Is universal coverage the answer to the health care crisis?  Is there a health care crisis? Is this class for you?  The answer to the last question is yes, if you are interested in questions regarding equity and efficiency in access to health care, the role of public policy in influencing health care providers and consumers, or simply understanding the economics of one of the most important political debates of our day.

Course Description

This course is designed to introduce students to the field of health economics, with a focus on public policy applications. The goal of the course is to enable students to analyze issues in health care policy using tools and theories from economics. We will cover a number of topics, including the demand for health care, the relationship between health and economic outcomes, health insurance, the supply of health care services, the government's role in the provision of services, and the basic economic concepts necessary for understanding these issues. The focus will be jointly on the U.S. health care system and health care systems in other countries.

Course Organization

This course will mainly follow a lecture format with time for discussion of the material. Students are expected to be familiar with the course readings and able to engage in discussion of that session's topics.


Students will be asked to read papers at the level of survey articles in economic journals. Some familiarity with the concepts of micro-economics at the undergraduate level (supply and demand, opportunity costs) as well as some exposure to econometric analysis (regression, statistical significance) will be helpful. If you are not sure about your preparation, please feel free to discuss your background with me.


Papers will be available through e-reserves. A good reference textbook on health economics may also prove useful, but will not be required. I will place a suitable text on reserve at the Odegaard Library, and provide reference chapters for each section of the course.

Assignments and Evaluation

There will be two (1 page) article summaries, two short (2-3 page) policy memos, and a take-home final exam. Page counts are for single-spaced pages. Grading will be as follows.

Class Participation - 10%

Summaries - 10% (5% each)

Memos - 40% (20% each)

Final Exam - 40%

March 31 2009, 11:03 AM
Complete syllabus with reading list and links to readings has been added to left side bar.

March 12 2009, 12:32 PM
Course Outline Added
You can now access a tentative outline for the course (including assignment due dates) on the left side bar.