Sunday, March 25, 2007

Universal Health Care

I recently had an interesting discussion regarding universal health care. This discussion was 100% based on economics - although it's very sad when people don't get the care they need, the money that pays for that care has to come out of the pockets of hard-working citizens, and they have troubles of their own. People will get sick and die naturally, and although nature is my bitter enemy, I don't think the government should be involved unless it would result in a profit for the arithmetic mean citizen.

I once thought that the free market would handle medical care in the most efficient manner - people who contribute the most to society would be kept healthier for longer, while people who had nothing significant to contribute would not consume valuable medical resources. However, that is an idealistic and short-term way of analyzing the situation; it does not take into account the "investment" society could be making in potentially productive people, or the market failure caused by insurance companies who will charge people unfair rates.

I'm not advocating socialized health care. A government monopsony is no more desirable than a private monopoly, and in addition to its theoretical likelihood of paying a non-equilibrium price, would realistically result in government bureaucracy and inefficiency. If you think the wait at the doctor's office is bad now, wait until no one has to worry about paying. Without a market mechanism, the inability of the health insurance industry to support the poor would only be replaced by the inability of the government to support anyone.

So here's what I'm thinking, split into two parts:
  • Eliminating the right of any insurance company to charge differing rates based on factors outside of a client's control. This will only redistribute the cost towards people without such factors, but keep in mind that there is no point in providing an incentive to do something impossible.
    • Currently, factors such as hereditary illness or gender are fair game for price discrimination.
    • Ideally, only choices such as smoking or vegetarianism would factor into one's insurance pricing.
    • I think this policy should be applied to all forms of insurance that are government mandated (like vehicle insurance) or sponsored, but that's off topic.
  • Government funding towards an insurance plan of the recipient's choice, of equal value for all citizens.
    • If the government simply paid doctors and pharmacists for a citizen directly, then one of two problems will arise:
      • The government determines what gets funding and what doesn't. As impressive as the government's decision-making ability has been thusfar, I don't think they'd do a very good job.
      • The government just pays for what anyone can get a prescription for. Wait, why am I arguing against this? THIS IS A GREAT IDEA!
    • Private insurance has market pressures to reduce overhead, accurately assess the needs of patients (or risk losing business), and advertise to the right groups.
    • As opposed to completely socialized health care, we could gradually transition towards this system, allowing individuals with enough money to buy more expensive coverage if they so desire.

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Blogger Phallus said...

The platform you describe is just about exactly what Obama's healthcare platform is.

3:59 PM, April 03, 2007  
Blogger Explodicle said...

Dammit! Well, I was planning on voting for him anyways. Don't tell me he's in favor of socializing patents too...

10:39 PM, April 03, 2007  

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