Health economics

Joan Costa-Font, Rosella Levaggi, Gilberto Turati, 20 September 2020

While competition between publicly funded hospitals seems to improve efficiency and the quality of care in ‘normal’ times, during a pandemic certain types of disintegrated hospital competition models can compromise the necessary stewardship of the system, and give rise to a larger number of fatalities. This column presents a regional comparison of the healthcare systems in three Italian regions that were severely hit at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The analysis suggests that an integrated model can provide a swifter reaction to an outbreak by minimising coordination efforts as well as  information costs.

Natalia Fabra, Massimo Motta, Martin Peitz, 16 September 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the importance of preparing for pandemics and other catastrophic events that require the quick availability of some essential goods and services. Relying only on private incentives and market forces would be insufficient. Instead, governments and preferably supranational institutions should design and implement prevention, detection and mitigation measures. This requires putting in place competitive mechanisms to accumulate essential goods, establishing rationing protocols, and facilitating the ramping up of production when the crisis hits. In particular, public institutions should secure the provision of essential goods in sufficient quantity and quality at a reasonable cost. A new CEPR Policy Insight argues that the economics of electricity capacity markets provides important lessons for such a provision.

Jérôme Adda, Christian Decker, Marco Ottaviani, 16 September 2020

There is much riding on the clinical trials currently in search of a COVID-19 vaccine. But for a vaccine to do more good than harm, researchers must remain free from conflicts of interest that could undermine their integrity. This column analyses trial results reported to the registry. It finds reassuring evidence for the reliability of ongoing clinical research, but also identifies subtle patterns that regulators should monitor with care, paying particular attention to enforcing the transparency of trials sponsored by smaller companies.

Richard Blundell, Margherita Borella, Jeanne Commault, Mariacristina De Nardi, 11 September 2020

As populations age in many countries, the risks associated with health shocks become increasingly important. Health shocks can affect consumption by changing a household’s available resources and/or the marginal utilities of different goods. This column quantifies the response of consumption to health shocks and uses a structural model to disentangle the two mechanisms above. It shows that temporary changes in health are associated with significant changes in non-durable consumption, with stronger effects in low-wealth households. In addition, the marginal utility channel is significantly stronger in explaining these effects than through households’ resources. 

Philippe Aghion, Sofia Amaral-Garcia, Mathias Dewatripont, Michel Goldman, 01 September 2020

While EU countries have been able to rely on a more resilient social model and a science-based approach in managing the Covid crisis more successfully so far than the US, Europe has fallen short in matching the US effort to incentivise Covid vaccine innovation. This is due to a lower level of financial investment and also an inability to ensure coordination across different (national and European) funding schemes. This column calls for the creation of a European equivalent to the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to tackle these problems, thereby strengthening European industries' leadership in vaccine research and innovation.

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