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A new role for consumers' preferences in the provision of healthcare


Telser, Harry; Zweifel, Peter (2006). A new role for consumers' preferences in the provision of healthcare. Economic Affairs, 26(3):4-9.

Abstract

In the present allocation of resources in healthcare, preferences of consumers as the ultimate financiers of healthcare services are judged to be of little relevance. This state of affairs is being challenged because the past decade has seen great progress in the measurement of preferences, or more precisely, willingness-to-pay (WTP) as applied to healthcare services. This article reports evidence on WTP of the Swiss population with regard to three hypothetical modifications of the drug benefit to be covered by social health insurance: delaying access to the most recent therapeutic innovations (among them, drugs) by two years in exchange for a reduction of the monthly premium; substituting original preparations by generics, again in return for a lowered premium; and the exclusion of preparations for the treatment of minor complaints from the drug benefit. Using discrete-choice experiments, WTP and its determinants are estimated. Average WTP for avoiding such a delay (which acts across the board) is much higher than for eschewing the exclusive use of generics (which are claimed to be largely equivalent to the original) or the retention of 'unimportant' drugs in the list of benefits – a rating predicted by economic theory. In addition, a great deal of preference heterogeneity between the French-speaking minority and the German-speaking majority was found, pointing to considerable efficiency losses caused by uniformity of social health insurance.

In the present allocation of resources in healthcare, preferences of consumers as the ultimate financiers of healthcare services are judged to be of little relevance. This state of affairs is being challenged because the past decade has seen great progress in the measurement of preferences, or more precisely, willingness-to-pay (WTP) as applied to healthcare services. This article reports evidence on WTP of the Swiss population with regard to three hypothetical modifications of the drug benefit to be covered by social health insurance: delaying access to the most recent therapeutic innovations (among them, drugs) by two years in exchange for a reduction of the monthly premium; substituting original preparations by generics, again in return for a lowered premium; and the exclusion of preparations for the treatment of minor complaints from the drug benefit. Using discrete-choice experiments, WTP and its determinants are estimated. Average WTP for avoiding such a delay (which acts across the board) is much higher than for eschewing the exclusive use of generics (which are claimed to be largely equivalent to the original) or the retention of 'unimportant' drugs in the list of benefits – a rating predicted by economic theory. In addition, a great deal of preference heterogeneity between the French-speaking minority and the German-speaking majority was found, pointing to considerable efficiency losses caused by uniformity of social health insurance.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2006
Deposited On:11 Feb 2008 12:21
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:17
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0265-0665
Additional Information:The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com
Publisher DOI:10.1111/j.1468-0270.2006.00643.x
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-1242

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