IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Theory versus practice: a review of 'willingness-to-pay' in health and health care


  • Jan Abel Olsen

    (Institute of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway)

  • Richard D. Smith

    (Health Economics Group, School of Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)


This paper is based upon an extensive review of 71 willingness-to-pay (WTP) surveys of health and health care published in English during the period 1985-1998. The aim of the paper is to outline the arguments advanced for the superiority of WTP over quality-adjusted-life-years (QALYs) as a measure of benefit of health care programmes, and to review how empirical WTP studies adhere to their implications. An important argument is that WTP enables a more comprehensive valuation of benefits than QALYs. Our main focus is therefore to provide a careful review of the scenario descriptions used in the surveys, according to which types of benefits are being valued, and how comprehensively the descriptions are presented. Furthermore, the 'cost-benefit argument', that WTP can assist in improving social efficiency, is discussed before we inquire into the extent to which the studies actually compare WTP with social costs. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Jan Abel Olsen & Richard D. Smith, 2001. "Theory versus practice: a review of 'willingness-to-pay' in health and health care," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(1), pages 39-52.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:10:y:2001:i:1:p:39-52 DOI: 10.1002/1099-1050(200101)10:1<39::AID-HEC563>3.0.CO;2-E

    Download full text from publisher

    To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
    1. Check below whether another version of this item is available online.
    2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
    3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eckerlund, Ingemar & Johannesson, Magnus & Johansson, Per-Olov & Tambour, Magnus & Zethraeus, Niklas, 1995. "Value for money? A contingent valuation study of the optimal size of the Swedish health care budget," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 135-143, November.
    2. Propper, Carol, 1990. "Contingent Valuation of Time Spent on NHS Waiting Lists," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(400), pages 193-199, Supplemen.
    3. Alan Diener & Bernie O'Brien & Amiram Gafni, 1998. "Health care contingent valuation studies: a review and classification of the literature," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 7(4), pages 313-326.
    4. Richard T. Carson, 2011. "Contingent Valuation," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 2489.
    5. Johannesson, Magnus & Johansson, Per-Olov & Soderqvist, Tore, 1998. "Time spent on waiting lists for medical care: an insurance approach," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 627-644, October.
    6. Mandy Ryan & Jenny Hughes, 1997. "Using Conjoint Analysis to Assess Women's Preferences for Miscarriage Management," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 6(3), pages 261-273.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:10:y:2001:i:1:p:39-52. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley-Blackwell Digital Licensing) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.