Maximising Health Benefits Versus Egalitarianism: An Australian Survey of Health Issues

Economists have often treated the objective of health services as being the maximisation of the QALYs gained, irrespective of how the gains are distributed. In a cross section of Australians such a policy of distributive neutrality received (a) very little support when health benefits to young people compete with health benefits to the elderly; (b) only moderate support when those who can become a little better compete with those who can become must better; (c) only moderate support when smokers compete with non smokers; (d) some support when young children compete with newborns; and (e) wide spread support when parents of dependent children compete with people without children. Overall, the views of the study population were strongly egalitarian. A policy of health benefit maximisation received very limited support when the consequence is a loss of equity and access to services for the elderly and for people with a limited potential for improving their health.