Health economics

[field_auth], 24 July 2016

‘Defensive medicine’ refers to doctors performing excessive tests and procedures because of concerns about potential malpractice liability. Advocates for reform of the liability system typically argue that this raises healthcare costs with few expected benefits for patients. This column explores how tort reform laws designed to curb defensive medicine affect innovation in medical devices. US states that introduce such laws see a reduction in medical device patenting, suggesting that high liabilities actually encourage innovation.

[field_auth], 15 July 2016

The health effects of pollution in terms of hospitalisations, mortality and morbidity are well researched, but not so much is known about the less severe effects of pollution on workers’ health. This column uses evidence from China to analyse the impact of pollution on productivity, finding that high levels of pollution reduce the productivity even of indoor workers. Reducing pollution is not just welfare-improving for society, it is also of financial benefit to the economy.

[field_auth], 11 July 2016

The rise in obesity has largely been attributed to an increase in calorie consumption. This column investigates this claim by examining the evolving consumption and lifestyles of English households between 1980 and 2013. While there has been an increase in calories from restaurants, fast food, soft drinks, and confectionery, there has been an overall decrease in total calories purchased. This decline in calories can be partially rationalised with weight gain by the decline in the strenuousness of work and daily life, and increasingly sedentary lifestyles. 

[field_auth], 02 July 2016

Inequalities in mortality rates are a good indicator of economic wellbeing, but most of the existing literature does little to distinguish between developments in infants and adults. This column uses extensive US data to analyse mortality trends across all age groups. It finds that the health of the next generation in the poorest areas of the US has improved significantly and the race gap has declined significantly. Underlying explanations include declines in the prevalence of smoking and improved nutrition, and a major cause is social policies that target the most disadvantaged. 

[field_auth], 14 June 2016

Although not a nudge, the ‘soda tax’ in the UK can nonetheless be justified in part on behavioural grounds. This column analyses the potential effectiveness of the soda tax in reducing consumption. As a behavioural instrument, the tax does not go far enough, and is in fact regressive.  A comprehensive junk food tax should be introduced instead, accompanied by nudges, ‘healthy’ subsidies, and regulation of ‘super-sizing’ practices.

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