It’s happened to me numerous times and, judging by my email, to my colleague Keith Humphreys recently. Sometimes you just need a reasonable figure and something to cite for a typical willingness to pay for a quality adjusted life year. For that reason, even before Keith’s email, I had intended to dump this abstract, from a recent literature review by Linda Ryen and Mikael Svensson into a post:
There has been a rapid increase in the use of cost-effectiveness analysis, with quality adjusted life years (QALYs) as an outcome measure, in evaluating both medical technologies and public health interventions. Alongside, there is a growing literature on the monetary value of a QALY based on estimates of the willingness to pay (WTP). This paper conducts a review of the literature on the WTP for a QALY. In total, 24 studies containing 383 unique estimates of the WTP for a QALY are identified. Trimmed mean and median estimates amount to 74,159 and 24,226 Euros (2010 price level), respectively. In regression analyses, the results indicate that the WTP for a QALY is significantly higher if the QALY gain comes from life extension rather than quality of life improvements. The results also show that the WTP for a QALY is dependent on the size of the QALY gain valued.
In 2010, as today, one gets about 0.75 Euros per dollar. So the trimmed mean and median estimates for the WTP for a QALY are $98,879 and $32,301, respectively. Now you know and have something to cite.