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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Self-interest, positional concerns and distributional considerations in healthcare preferences

Daniel, Aemiro Melkamu; van Exel, Job; Chorus, Caspar G.


Efficiently allocating scarce healthcare resources requires nuanced understanding of individual and collective interests as well as relative concerns, which may overlap or conflict. This paper is the first to empirically investigate whether and to what extent self-interest (SI), positional concerns (PC) and distributional considerations (DC) simultaneously explain individual decision making related to access to healthcare services. Our investigation is based on a stated choice experiment conducted in two countries with different healthcare systems, the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK). The choice experiment is on allocation of medical treatment waiting times for a hypothetical disease. We carry out the investigation under two different perspectives: (i) in a socially inclusive personal perspective decision makers were asked to choose between waiting time distributions for themselves and (ii) in a social perspective decision makers were asked to make similar choices for a close relative or friend of opposite gender. The results obtained by estimating a variety of advanced choice models indicate that DC, SI and PC, in this order of importance, are significant drivers of choice behaviour in our empirical context. These findings are consistent regardless of the choice perspective and the country where decision makers live. Comparing the results from different choice perspectives, we find that US respondents who chose for their close relative or friend attach significantly larger weight to their close relative's or friend's waiting times as well as to the overall distribution of waiting times than US respondents who chose for themselves. Looking at differences between countries, our results show that UK respondents who made choices for themselves placed significantly larger weight on SI and DC than US respondents, while US respondents, in turn, displayed relatively stronger but not significantly different positional concerns than UK respondents. In addition, we observe that UK respondents who chose for their close relative or friend put a larger weight on DC than their US counterparts. We conclude that the methodological (data collection and analysis) approach allows for disentangling the relative importance of the three motivations and discusses the potential implications of these findings for healthcare decision making.


Decision making; Distributional considerations; Healthcare; Positional concerns; Self-interest; Waiting times

Published in

European Journal of Health Economics
2024, Volume: 25, number: 3, pages: 423–446 Publisher: SPRINGER

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