Health economics

Ben Handel, Jonathan Kolstad, Thomas Minten, Johannes Spinnewijn, 21 November 2020

Public policies that offer choices to consumers are on the rise. But it is not clear that everyone benefits equally from these choices. This column presents new evidence using data on health insurance choices in the Netherlands. It finds that markedly worse choices were made by individuals with lower education levels, in less analytical professions, and with little exposure to high-quality choices made by peers. This new dimension of inequality calls for policies that genuinely improve consumers’ choices or cease offering them altogether.

Cevat Giray Aksoy, Barry Eichengreen, Orkun Saka, 16 November 2020

Last week brought welcome news about the apparent effectiveness of a potential Covid-19 vaccine. While the challenges of manufacturing and distributing the vaccine lie ahead, this column argues that the most difficult challenge may actually be getting people to take it. A September survey of more than 10,000 Americans showed that only a slim majority of adult respondents would definitely or probably get a vaccine to prevent Covid-19, were it available today. A 2018 study shows that vaccine scepticism is even greater in a number of other countries. Hope lies in the possibility of a more consistent and effective public policy response, in which governments’ non-pharmaceutical interventions produce positive results, in turn fostering confidence in the safety and efficacy of any vaccine they endorse and distribute. 

Monica Deza, Catherine Maclean, Keisha Solomon, 14 November 2020

The correlation between mental illness and crime has been widely documented. In general, individuals with poor mental health are more likely to be involved with crime, either as an offender or as a victim, compared to other individuals. This column presents evidence from the US, arguing that policies that grant support to mental healthcare may have long-term positive effects on crime rates. Since crime is a complex outcome, a flexible and varied policy response is essential to tackling the issue.

Marcella Alsan, Luca Braghieri, Sarah Eichmeyer, Minjeong Joyce Kim, Stefanie Stantcheva, David Yang, 13 November 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic offers an example of how two core government functions – the protection of civil liberties and the provision of public goods – can come into conflict. This column reports on a large-scale representative survey administered to more than 400,000 people in 15 countries which shows that a large fraction of people around the world are willing to sacrifice their own rights and freedoms in order to improve public health conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Citizens’ support, however, is likely to be heterogeneous and depends on their own exposure to COVID-19 health risk, as well as on how much they fear the erosion of their civil liberties.

Johannes Kunz, Carol Propper, 05 November 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has spread quickly and extensively around the globe and left behind many fatalities. This column reports on research which examines the association between county-level death rates and the quality of hospital care residents of those counties had access to in the first five months of the pandemic in the US. It finds that death rates were lower in counties where quality of hospital care, particularly for respiratory disease, was higher. But counties with high shares of minority populations did not appear to benefit from higher hospital quality.

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