Friday, January 7, 2011

The Path to Universal Healthcare

To start with, I'd like to make clear that I'm not supporting or attacking Obamacare. I don't know nearly enough about the bill to do that in an intelligent way. Instead, I'd like to add my thoughts to the debate on the concept of universal healthcare.

I find it highly desirable that everybody have access to healthcare. However, I don't think that anyone has a "right" to healthcare. Saying that poor people have a right to healthcare means that other people have the obligation to provide it for them. In its extreme case, this obligation could mean that the government has the power to require people to become doctors, force doctors to work more hours than they would like, prevent doctors from retiring, and compel citizens to pay higher taxes, all in the name of providing universal healthcare. That doesn't seem right to me.

Further, it doesn't seem right to me that if society decides it wants to spend $X on helping poor people that we should force these poor people to buy healthcare. They may want food, or an apartment in a better neighborhood, or to send their children to a better school more than they want healthcare. I don't feel comfortable telling other people how to spend their money, and I therefore don't think tax dollars should be spent buying health insurance for the poor.

The way to help poor people get health insurance isn't by buying it for them, its by getting them out of poverty. While reasonable and intelligent people will disagree, I think that the clear way to do that is to enact market reforms that create a freer economy. This spurs economic growth and moves people out of the lower class, enabling them to buy health insurance.

As far as healthcare reform goes, our current system is clearly not working. It's obvious even to a casual observer like myself that the market is filled with inefficiencies and a lack of competition, and my basic economic intuition tells me that reforms which increase competition will improve quality while driving down prices. This makes everyone better off without forcing obligations on anyone.

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