Willingness to pay for publicly-provided health care
In economic theory, the utility which an individual consumer obtains from a good is valued by the maximum amount s/he would be willing to pay for that good. On the face of it, therefore, it would seem that a measure of the benefits of a commodity based on maximum willingness to pay (WTP) offers great potential for policy makers. It provides a single measure of value which is rooted in economic theory. This thesis is concerned with valuing the benefits of public sector health care using the WTP approach. The aim of the thesis is to contribute to the development of WTP as a measure of the value of the benefits of health care. Potentially, such a measure would be of use in specific economic evaluations of health care alternatives (i.e. close substitutes) and in eliciting the strength of preference of the public with regard to the broader issue of health care priority setting. The contributions of the thesis are to theory and to the design of such WTP studies, with greater emphasis on the latter. Each of these is discussed in the following sections before going on to list the main recommendations for the future conduct of WTP studies which arise from the work presented. Contributions to theory The main theoretical contributions involve, first, bringing together the concepts of WTP and the nature of the commodity health care, second, examining this relationship within the contexts of patients' and the citizens' utility functions and, third, the examination distributional issues within the context of WTP.