Three essays in health economics
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As medical care becomes an increasingly large share of Gross Domestic Product, understanding the mechanisms for how and why medical care spending is rising becomes increasingly important. Such an evaluation should consider the productivity relationship between medical care and health. An evaluation of medical productivity involves the measurement of medical care input prices, disease treatment output prices, and the productive relationship between medical care inputs and disease treatment health outcomes. Medical care price measurement is complicated by the heterogeneity of services, the role of insurance in negotiating prices, rapid technological advancements in medical care and limited availability of transaction price data. Health outcome prices are difficult to construct because of the difficulty in measuring health outcomes, the heterogeneity of health outcomes, and the messy relationship between consumption goods and health. Finally, in addition to accurate input and output price measurement, a productivity assessment requires a measurable causal relationship between medical care services and health outcomes. To date, all of these requirements have been insurmountable hurdles to assessing the productivity of medical care for the entire United States economy. This dissertation uses the Medical care Expenditure Panel Survey to address the necessary requirements for evaluating the productivity of medical care. The second chapter constructs regional medical care price indices using transaction prices that control for service type heterogeneity. The data employed in the analysis associates the observed medical care spending with the diseases the spending is used to treat. This association is exploited in the third chapter, which constructs medical care treatment prices for twelve of the major health conditions in the United States. The fourth chapter compares the productivity of medical care services used to produce disease treatment health outcomes across insurance types.