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There appears to be much greater emphasis in the public debate on the costs than the benefits of health care.An example of this perspective is a Washington Post editorial (Washington Post, 2001) “Back to Health Care Costs” published shortly before the conference.Finally, four speakers examined some recent developments in treating cardiovascular disease and metastatic melanoma and the cost implications of these developments.Researchers at CMS find that technological change has been the largest single driver of growth in health care spending over the past 50 years.For example, as we have made progress against heart disease and, hopefully, make progress against cancer, the value of curing/mitigating Alzheimer’s disease increases. Progress against Alzheimer’s disease makes further progress against cancer or heart diseases much more attractive because of a better life in those later years as well as more years to live.David Cutler, a Harvard University economist, explained that life expectancy has increased 9 years since 1950 with about half of this increase resulting from reduced mortality from cardiovascular disease.An estimated ,660 per person was spent on health care in 2000—an increase of 838 percent from the 7 spent in 1950, assuming constant dollars.
For example, the increase in the life span of a typical 40-year-old person is more than three years.Kevin Murphy pointed out that investment in medical research has brought significant returns.In 1995, according to NSF calculations there were about billion in investments in medical research.Using age-dependent values of an additional life-year and the increases in life expectancy over this period, Murphy and Topel attribute a value of roughly trillion or about .8 trillion per year to the increased life expectancy, indicating the public values improvements in health very highly.To put these figures in perspective, improvements in life expectancy over the period 1970–1990 contributed about as much to overall welfare as did improvements in material wealth.
The first task was to estimate what an average American would agree to pay for a reduction in mortality risk that would add a year to his/her life.