autumn 2018

HEL-3007 Health Economics and Policy - 10 stp

Sist endret: 04.01.2019

The course is administrated by

Faculty of Health Sciences


Tromsø |

Application deadline

Applicants from Nordic countries: 1 June for the autumn semester and 1 December for the spring semester. Applicants from outside the Nordic countries: 1 October for the spring semester and 15 April for the autumn semester.

Type of course

This course is mandatory for students at the Master's degree programme in Public Health. Course students may be admitted if total number of students do not exceed the regulated 30 number of students at the course.

Admission requirements

Admission criteria: The same as for the Master's programme in Public Health. See the programme page. Application Code: 9371 (Nordic applicants).

Course contents

The course gives an introduction to key issues in health economics and policy. The first part explores the concepts of efficiency and equity, and explains how the assumptions of a perfect market are violated in healthcare. By applying basic price theory, we discuss how taxes and subsidies can affect our health related behaviour.

The second part deals with healthcare finance, where we distinguish between the alternative sources of funding, and the different ways of paying providers. We analyze private health insurance, taxation, patient payments, with an emphasis on efficiency and equity aspects. We discuss alternative ways of paying general practitioners and hospitals, exploring the arguments for activity based financing and other incentive mechanisms.

The third part of the course explains methodologies of health economic evaluation, such as cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analyses. Various ways of measuring health outcomes is discussed with particular emphasis on quality adjusted life years (QALYs). Finally, we discuss some priority relevant issues beyond costs and health outcomes.

Objective of the course

Knowledge and understanding:

  • Students are expected to understand the key concepts of efficiency and equity, and explain in which ways the assumptions of a perfect market are violated in health care.
  • By applying price theory, students should be able to analyse how taxes and subsidies can affect the demand for (un)healthy goods. More generally, students should be able to evaluate direct and indirect interventions in the determinants of population health.
  • Students should have knowledge on the alternative sources of health care finance, and be able to explain their pros and cons given the health policy objectives that might exist.
  • Explaining the principal differences in alternative payment systems for hospitals and primary care physicians is essential. Students should be able to analyse incentive mechanisms in the most widely used types of activity based financing.
  • Students should understand the methodologies of economic evaluation in health care (cost effectiveness analysis, CEA, and cost benefit analysis, CBA) including how to measure health outcomes (quality adjusted life years, QALYs). An understanding of normative issues on equality and fairness in health care priority setting is fundamental.

Language of instruction


Teaching methods

The course will require presence on campus during three teaching periods of five days each. Consisting of lectures, seminars and group work. Attendance to the on-campus teaching is mandatory. All teaching will be given in English. 


Voluntary: An individual home assignment between the second and the third teaching period. Verbal feedback from the teacher including an indication of the grade the essay would have got if it were an exam situation. The assignments may be written in English, Norwegian, Swedish or Danish. Students are encouraged to give a brief plenary presentation of how the healthcare system in their home country (or another country) is organized and financed.

Obligatory: Plenary presentation (30 minutes duration) of a group work on a chosen topic (2-4 students per group) to be presented on the second and third teaching week. The teacher will provide a list of topics to choose from. The presentations will be uploaded to the online learning management system after been accepted. Presentations must be given in English. All students have to participate in a group work in order to register for the exam.

Written school exam: The grade for the course is based upon a one day written school examination (six hours) early December. The exam may be answered in English, Norwegian, Swedish or Danish. Grading scale for the exam: A-E equals passed, F equals failed.

If a student fails the course, an examination re-sit will be organised. Students with valid absence from the exam will be offered a re-scheduled examination. See examination regulations.

Date for examination

Written test 06.12.2018

The date for the exam can be changed. The final date will be announced in the StudentWeb early in May and early in November.


Course overlap

HEL-3607 Health Management, Economics and Policy 5 stp

Recommended reading/syllabus

Main text: Olsen JA (2017): Principles in Health Economics and Policy, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Available in the university bookshop Akademisk Kvarter

Additional curriculum: A reading list of about 10 journal articles will be available when the course starts. 

Lectures Autumn 2018
Forelesning prof. Jan Abel Olsen
stip. Jan Håkon Rudolfsen
Gruppearbeid prof. Jan Abel Olsen
Seminar prof. Jan Abel Olsen