It’s hard to teach about health care while keeping partisan politics out of the discussion. It’s really hard to teach about the political economy of health policy while keeping partisan politics out of the discussion. And it’s especially hard to teach about the political economy of health policy in the United States right now while keeping partisan politics out of the discussion. Yet conveniently enough, last week I taught about the politics and economics of health care in my undergraduate lecture course entitled Politics and Markets. That’s right, in the midst of the government shutdown and looming U.S. default crisis, we covered health care policy.
So how to do this? See my lecture slides from last Thursday (slightly updated from the original). Rather than ignoring contemporary events, or simply lecturing based on my own views, partisan or otherwise, my strategy is introduce one perspective of how we ought to form reasoned opinions about health care reform. Doing so helps us to think about the classics (Arrow 1963 [PDF]), and also provides a convenient segue into thinking about different national models and the cross-national data about health spending and health care delivery.
So rather than the class devolving into partisan bickering over whether GOP strategy is reasonable or not, or me trying to convince students that one perspective or another is correct…
…we can approach health care reform by thinking about the tradeoffs that come with different models, and about how they appeal to the different values that we might have. Tradeoffs are inevitable, despite what partisans will tell you. But politics is about choice under constraints, and thinking about these tradeoffs helps to clarify what is really at stake with health care reform.