Willingness to Pay for Drug Rehabilitation: Implications for Cost Recovery

David Bishai, Jody Sindelar

NBER Working Paper No. 12506
Issued in September 2006
NBER Program(s):Health Economics

Objectives: This study estimates the value that clients place on drug rehabilitation services at the time of intake and how this value varies with the probability of success and availability of social services.

Methods: We interviewed 241 heroin users who had been referred to, but had not yet entered, methadone maintenance treatment in Baltimore, Maryland. We asked each subject to state a preference among three hypothetical treatment programs that varied across 3 domains: weekly fee paid by the client out of pocket ($5 to $100), presence/absence of case management, and time spent heroin-free (3 to 24 months). Each subject was asked to complete 18 orthogonal comparisons. Subsequently each subject was asked if they likely would enroll in their preferred choice among the set of three. We computed the expected willingness to pay (WTP) as the probability of enrollment times the fee considered in each choice considered from a multivariate logistic model that controlled for product attributes. We also estimated the price elasticity of demand.

Results: We found that 21% of clients preferred programs that were logically dominated by other options. The median expected fee subjects were willing to pay for a program that offered 3 months of heroin-free time was $7.30 per week, rising to $17.11 per week for programs that offered 24 months of heroin-free time. The availability of case management increased median WTP by $5.64 per week. The fee was the most important predictor of the self-reported probability of enrollment with a price elasticity of -0.39 (SE 0.042).

Conclusions: Clients' median willingness to pay for drug rehabilitation fell short of the average program costs of $82 per week, which reinforces the need for continued subsidization as drug treatment has high positive externalities. Clients will pay more for higher rates of treatment success and for the presence of case management.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12506

Published: Bishai, D. & Sindelar, J. & Ricketts, E.P. & Huettner, S. & Cornelius, L. & Lloyd, J.J. & Havens, J.R. & Latkin, C.A. & Strathdee, S.A., 2008. "Willingness to pay for drug rehabilitation: Implications for cost recovery," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 959-972, July. citation courtesy of

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