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Policy Contribution

The macroeconomic implications of healthcare

Health-care systems play a crucial role in supporting human health. They also have major macroeconomic implications, an aspect that is not always properly acknowledged. Using a standard method to measure efficiency, data envelopment analysis (DEA), the authors find significant differences between countries. This finding calls for policy responses.

By: , , and Date: August 23, 2018 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

Health-care systems play a crucial role in supporting human health. They also have major macroeconomic implications, an aspect that is not always properly acknowledged.

Countries spend very different amounts on healthcare, with spending in North America (Canada and the United States) more than twice as much per capita as in the European Union on average, and there are significant differences between EU countries too. Various explanatory factors such as income levels, population age structures and epidemiological profiles cannot explain the differences between countries. Decisions on the optimal level of spending should also consider various others factor, including the macroeconomic implications of health-care systems.

Whatever amount is spent on health care, it should be spent efficiently, in order not to waste resources and to improve the macroeconomic impacts. We demonstrate that there are threshold effects whereby certain quantitative indicators of health tend to improve with increased spending only up to certain amount of spending, but not further. Using a standard method to measure efficiency, data envelopment analysis (DEA), we find significant differences between countries, suggesting that not all countries use existing technologies and best practices to their full potential. This finding calls for policy responses.

Health-care systems matter for the macroeconomy because of their large size in output, employment and research. They also have direct fiscal implications in terms of the long-term sustainability of public finances, while health-care spending decisions influence short-term economic development through the fiscal multiplier effect, which is substantial. Most southern European countries cut health-care spending aggressively in recent years, likely amplifying the depth of their recessions and possibly causing hysteresis effects from long-term unemployment and reduced productivity. Fiscal consolidation strategies should aim to preserve spending items that have large fiscal multipliers, including health-care expenditures.

Health-care systems also influence labour force participation, productivity and human capital formation through various channels, and thereby have an influence on overall macroeconomic outcomes. They also play an important role in inequality, and we find that inequality of access to health care is particularly high in about one-third of EU countries, which calls for policy responses.

It is essential that discussions of health systems consider both the opportunity cost and the economic value of investing in health. Such an approach can help policymakers resist the temptation to default to the potentially inefficient status quo.

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Opinion

A tale of two pandemics

The two narratives briefly examined here cast light on different aspects of the EU in the times of Covid-19. Euroskeptic nationalists typically propagate claims of EU failure but have been rather subdued during the pandemic as mainstream governments have taken over their trademark policy of closing borders to foreigners. Nonetheless, the grip on power of several pro-EU mainstream leaders, including President Emmanuel Macron in France, Prime Minister Conte in Italy and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Spain, remains tenuous.

By: Michael Leigh Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 23, 2020
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The role of AI in healthcare

How can AI help us fight through a pandemic crisis?

Speakers: Dimitris Bertsimas, Georgios Petropoulos, Effy Vayena and Reinhilde Veugelers Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: June 23, 2020
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Biological threats and EU preparedness: How can we make the system more resilient?

Can the EU handle biological threats?

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Magnus Normark, Ilkka Salmi, Jukka Savolainen, Anne Sénéquier and Reinhilde Veugelers Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: June 18, 2020
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Policy Brief

Rebooting Europe: a framework for a post COVID-19 economic recovery

COVID-19 has triggered a severe recession and policymakers in European Union countries are providing generous, largely indiscriminate, support to companies. As the recession gets deeper, a more comprehensive strategy is needed. This should be based on four principles: viability of supported entities, fairness, achieving societal goals, and giving society a share in future profits. The effort should be structured around equity and recovery funds with borrowing at EU level.

By: Julia Anderson, Simone Tagliapietra and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 13, 2020
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Podcast

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Post-Council commentary

On April 23, EU leaders met virtually to try to come to an agreement for a common European response to the COVID-19 pandemic. What were the measures taken? Will they be sufficient? Did Europe come together for a coordinated response to the crisis? Or did the meeting further highlight the cracks between member states? This week, Guntram Wolff and Giuseppe Porcaro are joined by Maria Demertzis and André Sapir to comment on the EU Council meeting.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 24, 2020
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Technology, data, privacy, and the fight against disease

Reconciling health and privacy needs.

Speakers: Anna Buchta, Bennett Cyphers, Simon Hania, Caroline Louveaux, J. Scott Marcus and Mikko Niva Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: April 22, 2020
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The role of Cohesion policy in the fight against COVID-19 with Elisa Ferreira

How can cohesion funds help the National, regional and local communities that are on the frontline in countering the coronavirus and the resulting economic crisis.

Speakers: Jim Brunsden, Maria Demertzis and Elisa Ferreira Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: April 21, 2020
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Opinion

The perils of more debt

Europe must find the “Ways and Means”.

By: Maria Demertzis and Nicola Viegi Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 10, 2020
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A European response to the coronavirus crisis with Paolo Gentiloni

This is the second event in our series with the Financial Times, where Paolo Gentiloni will discuss the European response to the coronavirus crisis.

Speakers: Paolo Gentiloni, Mehreen Khan and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: April 6, 2020
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Podcast

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Mythbusters: debunking economic myths

Economics seems to be full of myths that are hard to debunk. Will robots take our jobs? Are trade deficits bad? Is China such a big economy simply because of the size of its population? This week, Nicholas Barrett, Maria Demertzis, Marta Domínguez-Jímenez and Niclas Poitiers put on the detective cap and become Bruegel's own economic mythbusters.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: April 3, 2020
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Opinion

Will the economic strategy work?

Because even thriving companies can be killed in a matter of weeks by a recession of the magnitude now confronting the world, advanced-economy governments have reacted in a remarkably similar fashion to the COVID-19 crisis. But extending liquidity lifelines to private businesses and supporting idled workers assumes a short crisis.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 1, 2020
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Podcast

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The macroeconomic policy response to the COVID-19 crisis

From the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to "coronabonds", the EU seems to be struggling to find an appropriate mechanism to tackle the economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic. What is really the best option? And how do we ensure that, once the pandemic is over, we return to sustainable debt levels and competitive economies? This week, Giuseppe Porcaro is joined by Lucrezia Reichlin, professor of Economics at the London Business School, Grégory Claeys and Guntram Wolff to discuss the macroeconomic policy response to the COVID-19 crisis.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: March 31, 2020
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