Social preferences for the inclusion of indirect benefits in the evaluation of publicly funded health services: Results from an Australian survey

John Mckie, Jeffrey Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The inclusion of both monetary and non-monetary indirect benefits in economic evaluations of public health programmes and services can have significant distributive effects between patient groups. As a result, some patients may be advantaged and others disadvantaged for reasons not directly related to health outcomes or (direct) treatment costs. In pluralistic democracies, there is a case for consulting the community on the fairness of policies that have such distributive implications. This paper reports the results of two pilot studies aimed at uncovering the preferences of the Australian public for the inclusion of indirect benefits in the evaluation of services for its national health scheme, Medicare. The initial survey found some support for taking account of non-monetary indirect benefits - for example, the social contribution made by parents of young children and carers of elderly relatives. By contrast, there was little support for giving high taxpayers priority access to general Medicare services, to life-saving organ transplants, or to very costly drugs, despite the indirect social benefits of doing so. However, such support increased significantly in the follow-up study when the outcomes were characterised as certain, identifiable and health related, and the opportunity costs of failing to take account of indirect benefits were made very clear. The follow-up survey provided evidence of public scepticism about the willingness or ability of government to use additional tax receipts for socially beneficial purposes, and/or a preference for programmes and services that focus on health rather than welfare more generally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449 - 468
Number of pages20
JournalHealth Economics, Policy and Law
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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