IS AN ADDITIONAL YEAR OF LIFE WORTH $120,000—OR $45,000? Putting a value on an additional year of life is bound to be controversial and is generally avoided in public discussion in the United States. Professor Gary Becker takes on the issue on the Becker-Posner blog for June 7: “Studies show that an additional year of life is worth over $120,000 to the typical American adult, apparently also including older adults, where “worth” is measured by willingness to pay for a one-year improvement in length of life.” In the United Kingdom, the value of an additional year of life in full health is determined by a government agency, and used to regulate the availability of new drugs and of medical procedures, as is described in this interview with the head of the agency that does the regulation. Are you wondering what the value of an additional year in good health is? The head of the agency says: “The judgment of our health economists is that somewhere in the region of 20,000-30,000 GBP [in British pounds or about $30,00 to $45,000] per quality-adjusted life year is the [threshold], but it’s not a strict limit.” The same approach is used for improvements in health by calculating a “Quality-Adjusted Live Year”: If you do a hip replacement, the patient might start at .5 [of a fully healthy Quality of Life per year] and go up to .7, improving by .2. Kids, it may surprise you, but I think that this kind of thinking is necessary, although I am somewhat appalled by its application. Oh, and I think that $45,000 per additional year of life is way too low. And I am appalled that “health economists” do the calculations.

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