Course Description

The American health care system is complex. It is a product of its history and a constellation of policy decisions made in doctors' offices, boardrooms, and congressional committee chambers over many decades. This course surveys that background, how it shapes the present, and where it offers opportunities for innovation in health care policy, financing, and delivery moving forward.

The course is divided into 3 units. First, we examine the system’s structure, components, and economic logic. Next, we consider the history of health care reform in the United States from Medicare and Medicaid, to CHIP, to the Affordable Care Act. Finally, we explore the present and future of the American health care system, including payment reforms, quality improvement initiatives, and efforts to expand access.

Key Topics
  • Structure of the American health care system
  • Access, quality, and cost
  • Medicare, Medicaid, and the history of reform
  • The Affordable Care Act


A segment on telehealth after COVID-19, from the American Health Care System

Learning Objectives

After completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Identify areas in need of innovation within the American health care system.
  • Explain the structure and economics of the various components of health care financing and delivery in the United States.
  • Delineate the relationship between the present structure of the American health care system and the history of efforts to reform health care at the federal level.
  • Evaluate efforts to reform payment, expand access, and improve the quality of health care services.
  • Determine the conditions and elements necessary for successful policy change in health care.
  • Propose policy innovations that are calibrated to specifically and realistically address needs within the health care system.
Final Deliverable

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A Policy Memo is the final deliverable for this course. Policy memos help students develop real-world skills, including writing persuasively for an audience of advisors and advocates seeking to make impactful change.