Saturday, February 03, 2007

Economics, Health Care, and the Hard Choice

In most circumstances, a free market corrects itself to reach a state of equilibrium. One example is the cyclical nature of the stock and commodity markets. However, applied to a situation with more dependent circumstances, the playing field includes more risk. Some human needs cannot cope with the ebb and flow of market tides. The continuing need for health care is one example. In a capitalist system, every commodity, no matter how important to survival and wellbeing, trades at the rate of the market. Fundamentally, this means that the operation of forces beyond mere supply and demand impact the availability of a commodity even when in robust supply.

Recently, a number of Democratic law makers have argued that health care should be universally available. The President even suggested in his State of the Union Address that health care needs to be affordable and available to the public. However, the operation of the free market currently renders such a position economically inviable. The perpetual fear of lawsuits from professional negligence inexorably drive the cost of health care to increase, while decreasing the number of people to whom health care is available. This cost prohibitive operation of economics makes universal health care, under the current system, a virtual impossibility. Unfortunately, fixing the system the way current politicians propose, would not only break the system but significantly devalue the kin of care an individual would receive. Diminished care is the norm in countries with socialized health care system like Canada.

The options seem extreme. Continue on our current path and have a system that only few can afford, or devalue available care in order to make it readily available for all. The only hope is for a market correction. This could not include a forced change, though, seeing as that would result in one of the two extremes. Neither results in a state of affairs that is most beneficial to the populace. Moreover, the operation of the system would break down due to the shear weight of the bureaucracy need to support the administration of a socialized program to a large population. Therein lies the disconnect. Such a program could not survive the weight of several hundreds of millions. Socialized programs only operate efficiently in small populations capable of supporting themselves and the program.

The goal should be, then, to make health care more affordable by correcting the inequity which drives the drastic upswing in cost. This should not come through the inhibition of individual rights. Doing so would debase preexisting constitutional guarantees, sacrificing one benefit for another. The goal should be to find a solution that does not sacrifice one social benefit for another.

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