Programme overview

Health Economics, Policy & Law

Education objectives

The programme trains students to:

  • Be able to contribute to improving healthcare systems and health policy
  • Have the analytical skills and the conceptual knowledge to understand the complexities of healthcare systems
  • Be able to combine an economic, policy science and legal perspective on policy issues (multidisciplinary HEPL), or to perform in-depth economic analyses (Health Economics specialization).

The programme takes 12 months of intensive full-time study:

  • The study-load of the programme is 60 credits according to the European Credit (EC).
  • The master consists of 6 compulsory courses and 2 elective courses, each with a course load of 5 credits, and an individual master thesis of 20 credits. Courses are organised in 5 blocks of 6 weeks, with 2 simultaneous courses in each block.
  • We do not offer a part-time programme.

Compulsory courses

The master in Health Economics, Policy & Law consists of the compulsory courses listed below.

Elective courses

In Blocks 4 and 5, students should choose elective courses with a total minimum of 10 EC. Within the programme, the electives listed below are offered.

Compulsory courses

Block 1

Historical developments, political choices, and societal structures strongly influence the organization of health care systems across countries. The main purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to various conceptual frameworks that help you to understand and use economic principles applied to health care systems. The course will deal with theory of supply and demand in health care, the crucial role of (asymmetry in) information, provider payment incentives, private and social health insurance, theory and practice of managed competition, organization and financing of long-term care, and the public/private mix in the financing and provision of care. The course looks at how health care systems, in the Netherlands and in other developed countries, deal with important policy issues like competition and regulation, solidarity, and the role of voluntary supplementary health insurance.

The course consists of two parts. In the first three weeks, quantitative and epidemiological topics will be the focus. They include causal inference, using causal graphs as a tool for designing quantitative analyses, and advanced interpretation of logistic and ordinary least squared regression results. The next two weeks will be devoted to understanding qualitative research methods, with a specific focus on researching language (discourse analysis) and practices (ethnography), and on formulating theoretically informed research questions. In the final week, quantitative and qualitative methods will be combined and students will present their assessments of several published studies.

Block 2

This course builds on Economics and Financing of Health Care, in which the principles of health economics and health care financing are explained. This course uses the tools and concepts discussed in that course to analyse and compare health and health care at the macro or system level. The performance of health care systems may be evaluated by analysing whether the outcomes are efficient and equitable. Therefore, this course consists of three parts.

The course enables students to get both theoretical and practical knowledge on HTA-studies such as: design, costing, quality of life, modelling, analysis of uncertainty, ethical and equity aspects and other policy considerations. Students will be able to develop and perform all elements of standard HTA-studies, including economic evaluations. Students will also be trained in critically reviewing HTA-studies, in order to judge their validity and applicability. Students will get more knowledge on the usefulness of HTA-studies for policy making. 

Block 3

This course focuses on the impact of international treaty law on regulating health care systems. Therefore, this course starts with identifying the underlying principles of health law. These principles explain the ratio of regulatory intervention in health care, i.e. good health. Good health raises questions about access to medical care, human rights and health care, scarcity of resources, mobility of patients, health professionals and medical products, and market competition in health care. For instance, who has access to health care services, what is the meaning of informed consent, and what services should be included/excluded from the basic benefit package. To a large extent these questions are influenced by legal standards as defined by international treaty law.

The aim of the course Comparative Health Policy is to provide students with profound knowledge and skills in cross-national health policy analysis.

Block 3/4/5/6

In order to complete the Master of HEPL, with specialisation Health Economics, students are required to write a scientific Master thesis on a topic that is related to one of the subjects covered in the HEPL Master. The combined workload of the Thesis Plan and Thesis is 16 ECTS (or 448 hours) and thus constitutes a major part of the curriculum. Students write their Master thesis under supervision of a member of the HEPL staff. The evaluation of the thesis and defence for the final grade is conducted by the student's thesis reading committee, which includes the supervisor and one co-evaluator. The co-evaluator must be someone from the ESHPM or ESE staff.


Elective courses

Block 4

In this course, students are introduced to determinants of market structure, prices, quality, provider networks and competition in health insurance and provider markets. Unique attributes in health care not only affect the functioning of market-based health care systems, but also complicate competition enforcement. 

Across the Global South, millions of people have limited or no access to essential health care. Many households are exposed to considerable financial risks related to ill health, or are forced to forego essential treatments. The World Health Organization has placed universal health coverage (UHC) high on the policy agenda and the United Nations have embraced UHC as one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.

This course provides a resource for students in the health sector who want to familiarize themselves with assessment of patient preferences using DCEs. We present the fundamental principles and theory underlying DCEs, demonstrate the process of carrying out a choice study, and discuss the policy implications of the results.

The course introduces students to moral philosophy. What is morality? What constitutes a moral dilemma? Why be moral? Is there truth in morality? What qualifies an act morally? What constitutes moral character? Following these meta-ethical questions, the course surveys major normative ethical theories (including utilitarianism, rights theory and virtue theory), describes methods of moral justification in healthcare ethics, addresses the problem of moral status and agency (what rights people are due, and when) and examines the moral characteristics of the basic relationships (e.g. professionals-patients and clients) inherent to healthcare. 

During this course more advanced applications of cost-effectiveness modelling are being studied and applied, based on Markov modelling. For this purpose, students will work on a real life case developing their own model and writing a technical report to present this. 

Block 5

This course builds on the knowledge acquired during Health Technology Assessment. The focus of the course is more economical than HTA. Several methodological problems in economic evaluation will be treated. The problems treated are typically issues that are at the center of the scientific debate. Students will be encouraged to think actively about these issues and formulate their own opinions in a balanced way.

The aim of this course is to provide students with theoretical and practical knowledge about governance of healthy cities as well as skills to perform ‘action research’ in the city of Rotterdam on the basis of which they will write a policy report. By following this course, students will develop an in-depth understanding of the possibilities and difficulties of governing healthy cities.

This course examines the links between health, health spending and economic welfare at the individual and at the societal level. The course deals with two broad issues (i) the linkages between health and economic development, in particular, in the context of developing countries and (ii) an examination of the effectiveness of public health spending including issues such as absenteeism of health workers, corruption in the health sector and approaches that may be used to tackle corruption.

A pharmaceutical pricing strategy is more than simply setting a price to recover R&D investments and adding a mark-up to guarantee a desired profit level. Indeed, a price has often little to no relationship to manufacturing costs in this market. It is the perceived value of a new drug in a broad sense, and how a drug is positioned in the market, that is critical to its success. Especially now that development costs are growing, blockbusters are being displaced by niche drugs, treatment is increasingly personalized, and governments are limiting expenditure on healthcare. For a pharmaceutical company, getting sufficient returns on investments and keeping the pipeline filled becomes increasingly challenging.

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