There is a traditional tension in public policy between the maximization of welfare from given resources (efficiency) and considerations related to the distribution of welfare among the population and to social justice (equity). The aim of this paper is to measure the relative weights of the efficiency- and equity-enhancing criteria in the preferences of health policy-makers in Israel, and to compare the Israeli results with those of other countries.
We used the criteria of efficiency and equity which were adopted in a previous international study, adapted to Israel. The equity criteria, as defined in the international study, are: severity of the disease, age (young vs. elderly), and the extent to which the poor are subsidized. Efficiency is represented by the criteria: the potential number of beneficiaries, the extent of the health benefits to the patient, and the results of economic assessments (cost per QALY gained). We contacted 147 policy-makers, 65 of whom completed the survey (a response rate of 44%). Using Discrete Choice Experiment (DCE) methodology by 1000Minds software, we estimated the relative weights of these seven criteria, and predicted the desirability of technologies characterized by profiles of the criteria.
The overall weight attached to the four efficiency criteria was 46% and that of the three equity criteria was 54%. The most important criteria were “financing of the technology is required so that the poor will be able to receive it” and the level of individual benefit. “The technology is intended to be used by the elderly” criterion appeared as the least important, taking the seventh place. Policy-makers who had experience as members of the Basket Committee appear to prefer efficiency criteria more than those who had never participated in the Basket Committee deliberations. While the efficiency consideration gained preference in most countries studied, Israel is unique in its balance between the weights attached to equity and efficiency considerations by health policy-makers.
The study explored the trade-off between efficiency and equity considerations in the preferences of health policy-makers in Israel. The way these declarative preferences have been expressed in actual policy decisions remains to be explored.