HKS Authors

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Improvements in medical treatment have contributed to rising health spending. Yet there is relatively little evidence on whether the spending increase is “worth it” in the sense of producing better health outcomes of commensurate value—a critical question for understanding productivity in the health sector and, as that sector grows, for deriving an accurate quality-adjusted price index for an entire economy. We analyze individual-level panel data on medical spending and health outcomes for 123,548 patients with type 2 diabetes in four health systems: Japan, The Netherlands, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Using a “cost-of-living” method that measures value based on improved survival, we fnd a positive net value of diabetes care: the value of improved survival outweighs the added costs of care in each of the four health systems. This finding is robust to accounting for selective survival, end-of-life spending, and a range of values for a life-year or fraction of benefits attributable to medical care. Since the estimates do not include the value from improved quality of life, they are conservative. We, therefore, conclude that the increase in medical spending for management of diabetes is ofset by an increase in quality.


Kumar, Aditi, and Eric Rosenbach. "Could China's Digital Currency Unseat the Dollar?" Foreign Affairs. May 20, 2020.