Valuing COVID-19 Morbidity Risks

Headshot images of Lisa Robinson, Mike Eber, James Hammitt, with image of COVID

Relatively little is known about the economic value of reducing COVID-19 morbidity risks. CHDS’s Lisa Robinson, Michael Eber, and James Hammitt addressed this issue in a report for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Much attention has been focused on valuing fatal cases, yet the number of nonfatal cases is far larger and preventing them is of increasing importance.

To support HHS regulatory analyses, the CHDS team first explored the value of COVID-19 mortality risk reductions, generally referred to as the value per statistical life (VSL). The team found that COVID-19 differs from the risks more commonly studied across several dimensions, and examined the effects of the differences in the age, health status, and income of those affected and in risk attributes including morbidity prior to death, dread and ambiguity, and magnitude. They found that the effects of these attributes are likely to be counterbalancing to an uncertain extent.

For nonfatal cases, the team investigated the value of similar health risks that have been more extensively studied. Ideally, these values would reflect individuals’ willingness to exchange their own income for reductions in their own risks. Few relevant studies are available, however. Consistent with the HHS Guidelines for Regulatory Impact Analysis, the team then explored the use of monetized quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) as a proxy. Based on review of the literature, they developed illustrative estimates for mild, severe, and critical cases of COVID-19.

Learn more: Read the report.
Learn more: Read the related Harvard Chan School news story “Weighing the benefits and costs of COVID-19 restrictions.”
Learn more: Resource Pack: Valuing Health and Longevity in BCA
Learn more: Resource Pack: COVID-19 Scientific Portals

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