Nothing Life Giving About ‘Quality Adjusted’
Should the government put a price on human life? The new head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., doesn’t think so. She recently introduced legislation alongside several of her colleagues to ban the use of “quality-adjusted life years,” or QALYs, in federal healthcare programs.
A QALY purports to measure the value of one additional year of life. A QALY of one is equivalent to one year of life in perfect health. A value of zero is death. Economists sometimes try to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a particular health intervention by comparing its price with the number of QALYs it can deliver.
That may sound reasonable. But QALYs reduce people to averages. They also systematically devalue people who are disabled, chronically ill, or aged by assuming that one additional year of life for them is worth less than an additional year for a healthy, able-bodied person.