Klein: “what is health care” ?

Peter Klein unpacks the least-discussed given of the health care debate:

Once we realize we are really talking about discrete, marginal units of particular goods and services the very notion of “universal access to health care” becomes problematic. What exactly is it that people have a universal right to? It’s analogous to debates about the environment.  One can have a sort of philosophical or meta-economic commitment to “the environment,” and its protection (hoo-boy), but this means very little in terms of specific trade-offs at the margin. Is it better to have one more house or airport runway or corn field, or one more patch of meadow or forest? Being an “environmentalist” doesn’t answer that question. You know the old story: everybody values “safety,” but that doesn’t mean you never leave your house or, when you do, drive to work in a Sherman tank. You willingly sacrifice some amount of safety in exchange for units of other scarce and valuable goods (like access to the world outside your house, time spent traveling, money). Each of us evaluates this trade-off differently. Likewise, the marginal valuations of specific health-care goods and services, relative to other consumption and investment goods, cash balances, etc. varies from individual to individual. There’s no such thing as “health care.” As always, heterogeneity matters.

Very little to add here, other than the slightly obvious observation that people probably ought to know what they’re buying before writing the check.

2 responses to “Klein: “what is health care” ?

  1. This healthcare bill will cost so much, it will add so much to our deficit, we could face high inflation because of this, our country is going bankrupt; look at how the value of our dollar has diminished.
    Logic dictates that in order to give care to so many people, with not enough doctors, there will be waiting lists, lines, ques, and rationing. The efficiency of care will be negatively impacted. I have lived under socialized healthcare in Germany and I know what I am talking about. There will not be enough doctors. A government committee will dictate what type of care you will get, not a doctor. If you have a health crisis and you need to see a physician in a quick manner, good luck. You will die. You think the government will care if you die while waiting to see a doctor? The bureaucrats have padded this bill with billions of dollars for non-healthcare items. As usual there is lots of Pork. Their philosophy is why not stick it to the taxpayers again? They are untouchable – what can we do to them? After all, we are just dumb citizens, right? Do you honestly think these government officials know what they are talking about? Of course not. Get real. They will be long gone and we will suffer for years due to their clueless mistakes and lack of leadership. Their continual banal platitudes sound just like a used car salesman’s spiel. Do you want to pay for abortions and free healthcare for illegal aliens? I have read a lot of this bill; I have worked in the legal field and I can tell they have worded this in a very convoluted manner in order to obfuscate the real facts. There are a lot of very important issues in this bill that have not been discussed on television Do you think multi-millionaire like Pelosi knows what a middle class American’s life is like? They are so out of touch with reality. Physicians wages will be lower; without competition, the quality of healthcare will suffer.
    Hospitals will be penalized for what the government deems preventable re-admissions.
    Look at the chaos going on right now due to the confusion as to what is in the bill. Are they talking about the Kennedy healthcare bill too? Will they combine these? If they start out of the gate with this type of confusion, think what it will be like later. Most of these politicians do not know what is in the bill. Obama does not know what is in the bill, all the while why he tries to cram it down out throat. Imagine, we pay their salaries and they are trying to make us do something we do not want to do. I thought they were supposed to represent us! They are not listening to the American people. They do not care. When did the constitution change? What is wrong with this picture? That is absolutely horrible. What is the rush? I feel because there is so much they want to hide. Obama said he would provide transparency. I don’t see transparency, do you? When the greedy banks and investment firms were in trouble, due to their own greed, greed, greed, our government gave them billions of our tax dollars. Was our government looking out for us then? We could have used those funds for healthcare. Look how the investment firms are still giving out millions of dollars in bonuses and they are just thumbing their noses at the government. Our government cannot run the Cash for Clunkers program in an efficient manner; the bailouts are a laugh, look at the post office problem. Medicare and social security are going bankrupt. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac caused the mortgage problem and our huge financial crisis. All you have to do is look at the past history of this government to predict the future. You have to be stupid to not see the writing on the wall. Americans, where is your backbone and your spine? We are like meek sheep going to slaughter. I have been writing to all of our politicians, telling them we do not approve of this bill. What about you? Have you done your duty? Or are you a typical apathetic, lazy, non-patriotic non-contributor? Too busy to take a few minutes out of your day to save our country? Shame on you. I have lived in other countries and have seen socialism. If you do not wake up now, you will be living like other third world countries before you know it. We are losing our voices and freedoms. If you do not speak up now, you will be sorry.
    My father lived during the Great Depression. He was a self made man and worked hard all his life to create success. No one gave him anything. He was extremely hard working, honorable, ethical, and would not have taken a free handout. He served in World War II to protect our freedoms, for he loved our country and was very patriotic. If he were alive today, he would be so shocked, disappointed, sad and ashamed to see what this great country has come to.

    • JoAnn, the post was about Klein’s disambiguation of what health care means. I’m not sure what provoked your lengthy reply (nor what the problem is at the post office), but your comment did not in any way address the issue being discussed. That said, let me offer two observations: 1) the dollar was devalued to its current level several years ago; and 2) I currently live in a socialist country and have excellent health care and a high quality of life. You should get out more.

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