Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore whether wealth effects of health interventions, including productivity gains and savings in other sectors, are considered in resource allocations by health technology assessment (HTA) agencies and government departments. To analyze reasons for including, or not including, wealth effects.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews with decision makers and academic experts in eight countries (Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom).
Results: There is evidence suggesting that health interventions can produce economic gains for patients and national economies. However, we found that the link between health and wealth does not influence decision making in any country with the exception of Sweden. This is due to a combination of factors, including system fragmentation, methodological issues, and the economic recession forcing national governments to focus on short-term measures.
Conclusions: In countries with established HTA processes and methods allowing, in principle, the inclusion of wider effects in exceptional cases or secondary analyses, it might be possible to overcome the methodological and practical barriers and see a more systematic consideration of wealth effect in decision making. This would be consistent with principles of efficient priority setting. Barriers for the consideration of wealth effects in government decision making are more fundamental, due to an enduring separation of budgets within the public sector and current financial pressures. However, governments should consider all relevant effects from public investments, including healthcare, even when benefits can only be captured in the medium- and long-term. This will ensure that resources are allocated where they bring the best returns.