Theoretical Arguments for the Discounting of Health Consequences: Where Do We Go from Here?
Despite the theoretical arguments presented in the literature regarding discounting over the last 25 years, no satisfactory reply has yet been offered to the question of whether health consequences have to be discounted at the same rate as monetary consequences in the economic evaluation of health programmes or interventions designed to improve health. Against this background, the main objective of this paper was to review and systemise these theoretical arguments, with the aim of determining whether any of the positions identified can be accepted without reservation. Having determined that this is not possible, we investigated the rationality of discounting in the literature and, on this basis, propose a potential way to resolve the problem. Thus, we argue that the relationship between the discount of monetary and health consequences has to be determined in an indirect manner, by reference to the relationship maintained by the individual time preference rates for health and money in the context of private and social choice. Although this proposal moves the debate into the empirical field, its advantages must be weighed against the difficulties associated with the estimation of the time preferences.
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