What's Your Life Worth?: Health Care Rationing... Who Lives? Who Dies? And Who Decides?

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9780130671653: What's Your Life Worth?: Health Care Rationing... Who Lives? Who Dies? And Who Decides?

Healthcare rationing is coming -- with a vengeance. What's Your Life Worth? previews tomorrow's healthcare system, showing what it'll feel like to be at the mercy of a system that might choose not to cure you. Right now, experts are calculating which diseases are worth curing, which treatments are worth paying for, and which aren't. This book tells you who they are, what they're up to, what they think you're worth -- and what to do about it.

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About the Author:

David Dranove is one of the world's most respectedhealth care economists. He is the Walter McNerneyDistinguished Professor of Health Industry Managementat Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School ofManagement, as well as Director of the Center for HealthIndustry Market Economics there.

His research and teaching focus on problems in industrialorganization and business strategy with an emphasison the health care industry. He has published over 70research papers, monographs, and book chapters on healtheconomics and pharmacoeconomics, and is co-author ofthe popular textbook The Economics of Strategy and the tradebooks How Hospitals Survived and The Economic Evolution ofAmerican Health Care: From Marcus Welby to Managed Care.

His many awards have included the Association ofUniversity Programs in Health Administration'sJohn D. Thompson Prize in Health Services Research andnumerous "research article of the year" prizes. ProfessorDranove holds a Ph.D. in Business Economics from Stanford University.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction

You may not know it, but the people who pay for yourhealth care have decided that enough is enough. They haveplaced a limit on how much they are willing to spend to saveyour life. In the United States, the keepers of the Medicare andMedicaid programs have capped spending growth, forcing providersto cut back on care. At the same time, U.S. employersare getting fed up with rising health insurance costs, and theyare giving managed care organizations the go-ahead to cutback on prescription drug benefits and other services. Suchrestrictions are old news in the rest of the world, where governmentpayers have been limiting access to costly medicaltechnologies for over three decades.

This is rationing, plain and simple. Rationing is a dirtyword in health care, but it is not necessarily a bad thing, providedthe cost savings are large enough to justify any resultingharm. For the most part, rationing has been ad hoc, withoutcareful weighing of the benefits and costs. But in the last fewyears, a few payers have taken baby steps toward rationalizingrationing—making sure that they get biggest bang out of theirhealth care bucks.

This book is about the many ways in which health care isrationed, and the transition toward rational rationing. AsChapter 1 details, rational rationing has already been institutionalizedby the British and Australian national health systems.The outcomes have been mixed. Government decisionmakers seem obligated to balance scientific principles withpolitical considerations. The outcomes are not always pretty,and government health officials remain crippled by budgetceilings that force them to place an unrealistically low valueon life.

Chapters 2 through 4 provide the theoretical justificationfor rationing health care and demonstrate the disconnectbetween theory and practice in Europe and the United States.At least for now, any careful weighing of lives and dollarsseems to be mere happenstance. Chapters 5 and 6 describerational rationing. Chapter 6 also explains how to numericallyscore different diseases to determine which are most worthcuring. These methods appear to be relatively simple to implement.In fact, they were central to a rationing plan implementeda decade ago in the state of Oregon, as described inChapter 7. But, as I show, appearances are deceiving. Proponentsof rational rationing have yet to overcome numerousobjections based on methodological, economic, ethical, andpolitical grounds.

Even if supporters of rational rationing can overcome themyriad objections to it, their schemes will not fully succeedunless they can grapple with the most challenging obstacle ofall. At some point, payers must decide where to draw the lineand declare that one particular health care service is "worthit" whereas another, slightly less cost-effective service is not.To do this, payers will have to explicitly determine how muchlife is worth. Chapter 8 tackles this question head-on and evenshows you how to compute the value of your own life.

One question remains: Who should implement rationalrationing? Chapter 9 describes the global imperative to containcosts in the public and private sector. I argue that rationalrationing is better left to the market, where individuals candecide for themselves how much their lives are worth. I concludethat if payers fully embrace rational rationing, they mayno longer fear spending money to save lives.

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