Economic Evaluation in the US: What is the Missing Link?
Peter J. Neumann
Sean D. Sullivan
In this paper we consider the evolving American healthcare landscape and what it means for the use of economic evaluation of health interventions. We emphasise that use of economic evaluation in the US is unlikely to follow the European, Canadian or Australian models, which use cost effectiveness openly and explicitly, given the decentralised manner in which American healthcare is organised, financed and delivered, as well as different political systems and traditions, and cultural expectations and attitudes surrounding healthcare. However, this does not mean that considerations of value are absent. On the contrary, measurement of value remains near the top of the agenda among US policy makers. With a few exceptions, it just isn't playing out explicitly. In the American context, it means in part heightened debate over clinical evidence, and cost sharing. In some cases, payers are also considering economic evaluation more directly in coverage and reimbursement decisions and indirectly for clinical practice guidelines and best practice recommendations. A dramatic shift in policy towards cost effectiveness seems unlikely in the near future. Change will likely come in incremental fashion through experimentation, and perhaps in selected circumstances with public and private leaders willing to take the political risks. Conceivably, more substantial change will occur with a major shift in the political leadership in Washington, DC in the legislative or executive branches, and/or with an economic downturn and severe pressures on federal and state health budgets. However, a more likely outcome is the ongoing indirect use of cost-effectiveness information.
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