Healthcare

With the debate between Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Bernie Sanders over healthcare this coming Tuesday, I wanted to ask the question, is healthcare a right? There has been much talk of human rights lately, and if healthcare is one of those rights. Additionally, if it is not a right how do we make sure that the maximum number of persons have access to good healthcare.

The Merriam-Webster legal dictionary defines a human right as, “rights regarded as belonging to all people”. For it to belong to all people that implies that it does not infringe on the rights of another person. Or else some groups would have human rights, while others did not. Someone can swing their arm as much as they want, until they hit my face. For basic rights to be respected each person has to have the right to their property (money, land, time, possessions, and their own physical body). If I am in need of healthcare, then I am relying on the time, education, tools, and presence of a doctor. To demand so much of their property to cure my disease without payment encroaches on their natural rights. On the other-side it would be a violation of my rights if they refused to treat me due to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion if they are providing the same service to others. This puts healthcare in the category of a product, not a natural human right.

If healthcare is a product, then how do we provide it for the greatest number of people? The answer is found in the free market. However, first let’s examine the view of the single payer system that so many hold up as the morally superior system of healthcare. When Senator Sanders speaks of the single payer system he means that the government is the single payer of healthcare. This takes away any competition and reason for health providers to lower prices. This can be seen in a different industry: college tuition. For the fifteen-year period from 2000 to 2015, federal financial aid exploded with a 58% increase in the average yearly loan amount. These loans became easy to receive regardless of major or repayment plan, which led to many students getting a nearly free education for any length of time and in any subject. This is regardless of whether that subject or skill is rewarded in the market place. This caused more cost with little economic output, and college tuition prices skyrocketed. To put it in perspective college tuition costs increased an average of 6% per year compared to increases in overall consumer prices (2.4%). These institutions know that the government will continue to send students back to school regardless of price.

The same is true in healthcare. The government pays for healthcare services by taxing its citizens, and printing more money. What lowers prices for a product is competition of prices and services, and consumers who place a value on a product based on what they can afford, and how crucial the product is to their lives. If healthcare providers know that the government will be paying for all healthcare services, they also know that the government will be able to pay any price. Combined with the typical increase in regulation that it takes to service government organizations they raise their prices. This extra cost goes directly to the tax payer. However, if government treated healthcare as a product on the free market then there would be consumers with limited budgets to pay healthcare providers for their services. Consumers would choose their own providers, and doctors would compete for each consumer. This would dramatically lower healthcare costs and taxes simultaneously. A double price cut for all Americans. Also, Americans would see the money that it takes to provide for their healthcare come directly out of their wallets, and not as part of a large sum of their yearly taxes. This would incentivize people to take better care of their health leading to less doctor’s visits. For procedures that are very expensive, or for those with chronic or terminal diseases, the government can provide tax deductions for contributions to Health Savings Accounts (HAS), which act similar to a retirement account. These savings will be free of tax and will compound annually.

Now there will be small group of Americans who are still able to afford some, but not all the services that they need, whether that is due to financial restraints, or extensive health problems. This is where I believe that the church has an amazing chance to shine the light of Christ. In a study done by the Pew Research Center, in 2014 nearly 70.6% of the population in the United States identified as Christian. If even a small fraction of these churches provided needed healthcare services to those who legitimately cannot afford it then we would have a healthy nation. This would not be a solution for all their healthcare needs, but only the ones they truly cannot afford. Without the government to fall back on at any price, people would take better care of themselves, or find a way to pay for their healthcare before luxury items like TVs, smart phones, or games. Let’s push for systems that incentivize growth, personal freedom, and protection of natural rights. Next post I will discuss poverty and how economic redistribution through income taxes actually hurts the poor, lower, and middle economic classes. Until then let me know what you think, and thanks for reading.

Also, watch the healthcare debate on CNN between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders Tuesday February 7th at 8 pm CST. See what you think about the issue.

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2 thoughts on “Healthcare

  1. Good write up. The arguments for the single payer system are that the government can set the price as the sole consumer, and thus demand a better rate since healthcare and pharmaceutical companies can’t take their business elsewhere. In addition, the typical fear of a free market system is that healthcare is not like other goods. You might decide not to buy as expensive of a car to meet your budget or not buy prime rib to feed your family, but if you or your child is sick you will likely pay whatever it takes to get better.

    Now, there are of course counter arguments ranging from the ethics of preventing business from running however they want, to the fact that it may hurt the availability of services by overwhelming them (basically if everyone can afford to go to the doctor it clogs the system).

    I tend to fall on the side of we should free businesses up to run but I have some concerns. 1) We have seen time and time again that unchecked free market systems eventually end up as monopolistic, rent-seeking industries. 2) pharmaceutical companies in particular are using the fact that people can negotiate with their healt the hurt the consumer. Old drugs that have long made back their initial R&D investment are still marked up at ridiculous rates because people have no choice. We only have to compare to industries like telecommunications and ISPs to see that “competition” doesn’t always result in lower prices.

    Bottom line, we have a broken system. We pay more per capita for healthcare than any country in the world and get middle of the road healthcare. Personnally, I favor a more free market system, but with strong protective regulation, and possibly a partnership between government and private industry for R&D (think NASA).

    Anyways, good, succinct write up of the issue! I’m enjoying reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You raise some great points. I do think it should be said that single payer systems that are “free” and rely on the government to lower costs often have large hidden costs. For example in Canada if someone breaks their arm they don’t have to pay a dime to see a doctor…if they can see a doctor. It often takes anywhere from 7-14 hours to see a nurse who determines if the injury is bad enough to see a doctor. This is a giant opportunity cost when that person could be working and earning money. There are also times that the government deems that the injury is not worthy of care, so that person is sent home.
      Admittedly, I neglected to include this, but another important point to getting prices down for healthcare in a free market is the ability to buy health insurance across state lines. This puts the negotiating of many health care costs between the private industry and healthcare providers, which historically has done a far better job of cutting costs than the government. Thanks for giving me some ideas to think about. This is one of the more complex issues.

      Like

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