Thu, 28 Dec 2006

Health Care

Health care in the USA is completely broken. Health care is a difficult problem, to be sure, but I think it's clear that we're currently solving it very badly. Two problems with health care: One is that people expect everyone to have the same health care as a rich person, even if they're not rich themselves. Another is that health care, not being exposed to the discipline of the market, is very expensive. If everyone gets the same health care as a rich person, then there is no pressure to create more frugal health care.

Health care then being expensive, everyone expects somebody else to be paying for their health care. This creates bizarre solutions. For example, the Canada, health care is paid by the federal government. In order to hold down taxes, access to health care is limited; typically by waiting periods. Or in the USA, most working people have their health care paid by their employer, except for a very small deductible. This makes it difficult for employees with health problems to switch employers. The government has created a ham-handed solution which permits former employees to continue their health insurance by paying the premium out of pocket..

Health care is important, without doubt. So is food (insufficient calories reduces your resistance to ordinary infections), but we generally don't expect everyone to be able to dine on caviar and steak every day. Many different kinds of food are available in many different venues and preparation styles, at reasonable prices. Yes, the poor may need to dine on beans and rice, but except for the most indigent, everyone can get enough calories, protein, and vitamins to stay healthy. Health care could be the same way; with cheap, worthwhile health care being available to everyone at affordable prices. We have chosen a different path; much to our detriment.

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