What Does the Public Want? Structural Consideration of Citizen Preferences in Health Care Coverage Decisions

Irina Cleemput (Corresponding Author), Stephan Devriese, Laurence Kohn, Carl Devos, Janine van Til, Catharina G.M. Groothuis-Oudshoorn, Carine van de Voorde

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Background: Multi-criteria decision analysis can improve the legitimacy of health care reimbursement decisions by taking societal preferences into account when weighting decision criteria. This study measures the relative importance of health care coverage criteria according to the Belgian general public and policy makers. Criteria are structured into three domains: therapeutic need, societal need, and new treatments’ added value.

Methods: A sample of 4,288 citizens and 161 policy makers performed a discrete choice experiment. Data were analyzed using multinomial logistic regression analysis. Level-independent criteria weights were determined using the log-likelihood method.

Results: Both the general public and policy makers gave the highest weight to quality of life in the appraisal of therapeutic need (0.43 and 0.53, respectively). The general public judged life expectancy (0.14) as less important than inconvenience of current treatment (0.43), unlike decision makers (0.32 and 0.15). The general public gave more weight to “impact of a disease on public expenditures” (0.65) than to “prevalence of the disease” (0.56) when appraising societal need, whereas decision makers’ weights were 0.44 and 0.56, respectively. When appraising added value, the general public gave similar weights to “impact on quality of life” and “impact on prevalence” (0.37 and 0.36), whereas decision makers judged “impact on quality of life” (0.39) more important than “impact on prevalence” (0.29). Both gave the lowest weight to impact on life expectancy (0.14 and 0.21).

Limitations: Comparisons between the general public and policy makers should be treated with caution because the policy makers’ sample size was small.

Conclusion: Societal preferences can be measured and used as decision criteria weights in multi-criteria decision analysis. This cannot replace deliberation but can improve the transparency of health care coverage decision processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalMedical decision making
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2018


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Reimbursement
  • Health insurance
  • Decision making
  • Consumer participation


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