Willingness to pay for a quality-adjusted life year: implications for societal health care resource allocation.


The authors measured preferences for current health in 3 patient populations (N = 391) using standard gamble, time trade-off, visual analog scale, and WTP, then they calculated WTP/QALY ratios. The ratios were compared with several proposed cost/QALY cost-effectiveness ratio thresholds, the value-of-life literature, and with WTP/QALY ratios derived from published preference research.

Mean WTP/QALY ratios ranged from 12,500 to 32,200 US dollars (2003 US dollars). All values were below most published cost-effectiveness ratio thresholds, below the ratio from a prototypic medical treatment covered by Medicare (i.e., renal dialysis), and below ratios from the value-of-life literature. The WTP/QALY ratios were similar to those calculated from published preference data for patients with symptomatic meno-pause, dentofacial deformities, asthma, or dermatologic disorders.

Health-state preferences can be combined with willingness-to-pay (WTP) data to calculate WTP per quality-adjusted life year (QALY). The WTP/QALY ratios provide insight into societal valuations of expenditures for medical interventions.

WTP/QALY ratios calculated using preference data collected from diverse populations are lower than most proposed thresholds for determining what is "cost-effective." Current proposed cost-effectiveness ratio thresholds may overestimate the willingness of society to pay for medical interventions.

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