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University of Pennsylvania

American Health Policy: The Structure of the American Health Care System (Part I of II)

University of Pennsylvania via Coursera

This course may be unavailable.


The American health care system has many problems. 50 million people are uninsured. Quality is extremely uneven, with peaks of greatness at leading academic centers but overall poor quality in both process measures and outcomes such as asthma deaths. Finally, the U.S. health care system spends over $8000 per patient per year, nearly double the next highest country. In March 2010, the Affordable Care Act was enacted. Over the next decade or more, the Act will dramatically re-structure the American health care system.

Part I of this course will explore the history and structure of the current American health care system, including the history of and problems with employment-based health insurance, the challenges surrounding access, cost and quality, and the medical malpractice conundrum. It will conclude with the history of health care reform, leading up to the Affordable Care Act. Throughout lessons regarding health economics, health policy, and medical practice will be elucidated.

Part II of this course will then explore the challenges that were overcome to achieve health reform in America. We will delineate the specific ways that the Affordable Care Act improves access and quality and will control costs. Part II will conclude with predictions about further reforms and about the future of health care in America. 

This class is open to anyone that is interested in gaining a better understanding of the US health care system and the challenges of health care reform. There are no prerequisites or required knowledge of the health system. Students who feel as though they have a strong grasp of the structure of the current US health system and the history of health care reform in the US may start with Part II of the course instead. 


Week 1: Introduction and History

Week 2: Structure

Week 3: Problems

Week 4: Reforming American Health Care

Taught by

Ezekiel Emanuel


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