COVID-19 and the Health Policy Recession: Whatever it Takes, Grandma or the Economy or What Makes Sense?

Various Canadian politicians and some analysts argue that we should do ‘’whatever it takes’’ to save lives threatened by the COVID-19 epidemic. A few politicians, here and in the USA, have put forward that one should sacrifice older people for the ‘economy’. The first proposal is understandable as a spontaneous reaction to the pain and suffering caused by COVID-19. However, this proposal is an inefficient and inequitable policy choice if governments mean that we should value the lives of those threatened by COVID-19 more than the lives of those endangered by usual diseases such as cancer or diabetes. The second proposal is not the choice one is faced with. To justify these two statements, we: 1) summarize the intervention plan; 2) present the number of individuals at risk; 3) discuss the use of quality adjusted live years (QALY to assess health innovations; 4) present the number, age distribution and expected QALYs of lives saved from COVID-19; 5) value these QALYs; 6) and derive from this an amount of resources to allocate to this epidemic that makes sense given that we value years lived equally and equitably across all diseases and over time.

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