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Drivers of health care expenditure: Does Baumol's cost disease loom large?

  • Colombier, Carsten

According to Baumol (1993) health care epitomises Baumol's cost disease. Sectors that suffer from Baumol's cost disease are characterised by slow productivity growth due to a high labour coefficient. As a result, unit costs of these sectors rise inexorably if the respective wages increase with productivity growth of the progressive industries such as manufacturing. Thus, according to Baumol (1993) the secular rise in health-care expenditure has been unavoidable. This present paper demonstrates that health care is contracted by Baumol's cost disease, but only to a minor extent. Consequently, policy-makers have more leeway to curbever-increasing health-care expenditure than is suggested by Baumol (1993) and other authors. In addition, we test the implications of Baumol's cost disease for health care by avoiding the well-known flaws in constructing medical price indices. Therefore, the adjusted Baumol variable derived in this paper is also extremely appropriate to test the validity of Baumol's cost diseases of other service industries such as education or the live performing arts. Additionally, our analysis suggests that health care is rather a necessity than a luxury at the national level, which conflicts with macroeconomic evidence provided in the relevant literature.

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Paper provided by University of Cologne, FiFo Institute for Public Economics in its series FiFo Discussion Papers - Finanzwissenschaftliche Diskussionsbeiträge with number 12-5.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:uoccpe:125
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  1. Brigitte Dormont & Michel Grignon & Hélène Huber, 2006. "Health expenditure growth: reassessing the threat of ageing," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(9), pages 947-963.
  2. Nadim Ahmad & François Lequiller & Pascal Marianna & Dirk Pilat & Paul Schreyer & Anita Wölfl, 2003. "Comparing Labour Productivity Growth in the OECD Area: The Role of Measurement," OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers 2003/14, OECD Publishing.
  3. David M. Cutler & Mark McClellan & Joseph P. Newhouse & Dahlia Remler, 1998. "Are Medical Prices Declining? Evidence From Heart Attack Treatments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(4), pages 991-1024, November.
  4. Jochen Hartwig, 2006. "What Drives Health Care Expenditure? Baumol’s Model of ‘Unbalanced Growth’ Revisited," KOF Working papers 06-133, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
  5. Jochen Hartwig, 2007. "Can Baumol's Model of Unbalanced Growth Contribute to Explaining the Secular Rise in Health Care Expenditure? An Alternative Test," KOF Working papers 07-178, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
  6. Getzen, Thomas E., 2000. "Health care is an individual necessity and a national luxury: applying multilevel decision models to the analysis of health care expenditures," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 259-270, March.
  7. William D. Nordhaus, 2002. "The Health of Nations: The Contribution of Improved Health to Living Standards," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1355, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  8. Dreger, Christian & Reimers, Hans-Eggert, 2005. "Health Care Expenditures in OECD Countries: A Panel Unit Root and Cointegration Analysis," IZA Discussion Papers 1469, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Yves Croissant & Giovanni Millo, . "Panel Data Econometrics in R: The plm Package," Journal of Statistical Software, American Statistical Association, vol. 27(i02).
  10. Jochen Hartwig, 2005. "Sind unsere gesamtwirtschaftlichen Probleme überhaupt lösbar?," KOF Working papers 05-112, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
  11. Mary O'Mahony & Marcel P. Timmer, 2009. "Output, Input and Productivity Measures at the Industry Level: The EU KLEMS Database," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(538), pages F374-F403, 06.
  12. Baumol, William J, 1993. " Health Care, Education and the Cost Disease: A Looming Crisis for Public Choice," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 77(1), pages 17-28, September.
  13. Andreas Werblow & Stefan Felder & Peter Zweifel, 2007. "Population ageing and health care expenditure: a school of 'red herrings'?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(10), pages 1109-1126.
  14. Victor R. Fuchs, 1968. "The Service Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fuch68-1, July.
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