Health Care Economics

Explore the economic forces shaping US health care

Taught by Harvard Medical School faculty, this Harvard Online course provides insights into the interactions between industries in the US health care sector and teaches what economic forces are shaping health care.

Featuring faculty from:
February 2023
6 weeks
3-4 hours per week
Certificate Price
Program Dates
Applications Close
May 2023
6 weeks
3-4 hours per week
Certificate Price
Program Dates
Applications Close
Apply today for Health Care Economics

What You'll Learn

What are the primary drivers of rising health care costs? How does money shape your decision-making as a patient? As a provider? As a payer? 

Even for those within the health care industry, the economics of the United States health care system are stunningly complex and can be challenging to navigate. In Health Care Economics, gain insights into the interactions between industries in the health care sector and learn what economic forces are shaping health care. You will cover core topics in health care economics, such as moral hazard and adverse selection, and examine how these forces, as well as the actions of patients, providers, and other key stakeholders, shape outcomes in the health care market.

Balancing the needs of patients and purchasers is a daily struggle for health care leaders and central to the success of any health care business. To make this happen, clinical, research, operational, and financial leaders need a shared understanding of the true drivers of health care spending, the policies that shape and define the sector, and how financial incentives impact both patient and provider behavior. This course will examine health care spending growth, considering new technologies and other economic factors, and explore the theoretical framework behind controlling spending growth through changes to benefit design and payment reform.

Delivered via Harvard Business School Online’s innovative course platform, Health Care Economics features real-world examples, interactive lessons, and conversations with industry experts. Led by Harvard Medical School professor Michael Chernew, PhD, Chair of The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), this course allows you to gain a better understanding of core economic principles as you learn how to create more compelling programs, develop more effective growth strategies, negotiate better reimbursement contracts and partnerships, and advocate more effectively both inside and outside your organization.

The Harvard Medical School is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The Harvard Medical School designates this enduring material for a maximum of 19.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Upon successful completion of the course, participants will have access to claim their credits through the Harvard Medical School’s continuing education platform.

The course will be delivered via HBS Online’s course platform and immerse learners in real-world examples from experts at industry-leading organizations. By the end of the course, participants will be able to:


  • Articulate the drivers of spending and spending growth in health care and evaluate how your organization’s strategy and decision-making processes impact total spending as well as value
  • Describe approaches to getting the incentives right for both providers and patients and evaluate the impacts of changes to these incentives
  • Understand risk and pooling as they relate to insurance markets and health benefit design
  • Define the role of employers, insurers, and government in influencing the economics of health care markets, such as spending, access to care, and stability of insurance markets
  • Explain how technology and patients’ and providers’ decisions contribute to high spending and spending growth, and how they impact their own organizations

Your Instructor

Michael Chernew, PhD, is the Leonard D. Schaeffer Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Chernew’s research examines several areas related to improving the health care system, including studies of novel benefit designs, Medicare Advantage, alternative payment models, low-value care, and the causes and consequences of rising health care spending. Dr. Chernew is currently serving as Chair of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), where he previously served as the Vice Chair and as a Member. In 2000, 2004, and 2010, he served on technical advisory panels for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that reviewed the assumptions used by Medicare actuaries to assess the financial status of Medicare trust funds. He's a member of the Congressional Budget Office’s Panel of Health Advisors and Vice Chair of the Massachusetts Health Connector Board. Dr. Chernew is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a Senior Visiting Fellow at MITRE. He's currently a co-editor of the American Journal of Managed Care and on advisory boards for several private companies in the health care space, including Virta Health, Archway, and HEALTH[at]SCALE.

Real World Case Studies

Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.

Dr. Matthew Hutter

Dr. Matthew Hutter

Hear a clinician’s perspective on how new technologies can have unexpected consequences in terms of cost and utilization of care.

Professor Joe Newhouse

Professor Joe Newhouse

Explore the striking and unexpected results of the RAND health insurance experiment and patients’ response to higher copays and deductibles.

Dr. Sandhya Rao

Dr. Sandhya Rao

Learn about the challenges in health insurance today from the Chief Medical Officer of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Who Will Benefit

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Rising Leaders

Develop a comprehensive understanding of the health care landscape, including the key drivers of rising US health care spending.

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Administrators and Policy Makers

Gain insights into strategic decisions around new business initiatives, health benefit plans, reimbursement contract negotiations, and care delivery models.

Medical Providers


Understand the financial impacts of new technologies and services and how to create value-based care for patients.

Learner Testimonials

“This is an amazing course. The professor did a fantastic job dissecting the complexities of healthcare into chewable chunks.”

Howard H. Dinh, MD, FACC
Medical Director, Cardiac Services, Greater Sacramento
The Permanente Medical Group and Chief, Cardiology, Kaiser Permanente, South Sacramento

“This is now my fourth HBS online course that I have taken. I love that the format lets me learn asynchronously when I have time in my busy schedule. The HBS courses do a wonderful job encouraging interaction with peer learners which amplifies the learning. The HBS courses foster this peer engagement much more effectively than I have found in other online courses that I have taken.”

Denver Sallee III, MD
Chief Financial Officer, Sibley Heart Center Cardiology and Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Emory University School of Medicine

Earn Your Certificate

Enroll today in Harvard Online's Health Care Economics course.

Apply Now

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Health Care Economics Certificate

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