Health systems worldwide struggle to meet increasing demands for health care, and Norway is no exception. This paper discusses the new, comprehensive framework for priority setting recently laid out by the third Norwegian Committee on Priority Setting in the Health Sector. The framework posits that priority setting should pursue the goal of "the greatest number of healthy life years for all, fairly distributed" and centres on three criteria: 1) The health-benefit criterion: The priority of an intervention increases with the expected health benefit (and other relevant welfare benefits) from the intervention; 2) The resource criterion: The priority of an intervention increases, the less resources it requires; and 3) The health-loss criterion: The priority of an intervention increases with the expected lifetime health loss of the beneficiary in the absence of such an intervention. Cost-effectiveness plays a central role in this framework, but only alongside the health-loss criterion which incorporates a special concern for the worse off and promotes fairness. In line with this, cost-effectiveness thresholds are differentiated according to health loss. Concrete implementation tools and open processes with user participation complement the three criteria. Informed by the proposal, the Ministry of Health and Care Services is preparing a report to the Parliament, with the aim of reaching political consensus on a new priority-setting framework for Norway.
Keywords: Economics; Ethics; Evidence-based medicine; Health care rationing; Health care reform; Health policy; Jurisprudence; Patient participation; Politics; Social justice.
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