With Obama's Heath Care Plan dominating the headlines, we have had several questions regarding our stance on publicly funded health care overall, and Obama's plan in particular.
It is clear that the system is broken and needs to be improved. What we find particularly disturbing in the debate is the number of individuals that are adamant against government funded health care, yet you ask them how they feel about medicaid or medicare and they have a completely different answer - with many even covered by it!
Overall, we would be in favor of a health care plan that is very different from the current system. Fitting with the Progressive Libertarian platform, the goals would be:
* to let the free market operate much more efficiently than the bureaucratic and opaque system currently in place
* encourage individual responsibility and personal choice for health care decisions
* have the government take an active roll in making sure individuals are insured against a catastrophic event
1) All routine expenses would be paid out of pocket. If you want to control costs, make individuals take the money directly out of their own pocket to pay for it. This follows our tenet of putting the power of choice to the individual.
2) Increasing "price discovery" for health care services rendered. When was the last time you knew the exact amount you were paying for a medical service rendered? Is there any other item that you can think of that you would buy where you don't know what the cost is? And individuals wonder why health care costs have skyrocketed... "Price discovery" and "comparison shopping" are crucial to make health care a competitive market.
3) Having a government funded mandatory insurance program that covers "catastrophic events." There would be some large deductible -- call it the first $20,000. But, after that the government insurance pool would cover the costs beyond that. Making it mandatory would force all individuals to be covered. This is already done with vehicles and with homeowners. When you really think about it, isn't it actually shocking that it is not mandatory for something as potentially devastating as excessive health care costs?
4) Having the insurance program be revenue-cost neutral. Being a mandatory program would disburse the costs across the population and the goal would be to have it revenue-cost neutral. The key question for society is at what level is the cost-benefit (i.e. taxes vs. services rendered) trade-off maximized.
Overall, the #1 cause of bankruptcy in America is a catastrophic health care event. Having the government provide support for this "Reverse Lottery Ticket" is consistent with the Progressive Libertarian philosophy. This insurance could still conceivably be done through the private sector as well (as is the case with car insurance or home owners insurance).
Without question, the crucial and most difficult question of the health care debate -- which surprising no one ever seems to talk about -- is "How much is a human life worth?" There are numerous related questions that stem from trying to come up with a quantifiable figure for something that is conceptually very difficult to assign a dollar value.
Specifically, while we have the technology to prolong life, there is a cost -- and in some cases, a prohibitively high cost -- in doing so. Obviously, if it is you or a family member that is dying, it is impossible to assign a monetary value to prolonging that life. But, for society and government, there is an inherent trade-off on the tax versus the benefit.
As an example, the value to society in doing an expensive operation to a child is much greater than the value of a similar operation to someone over 70 years old. As such, it makes sense to have an objective rule for the insurance plan that will spend significantly less once an individual is past the "productive" part of the life cycle.
Perhaps surprisingly, there have been a number of economic studies that have come up with implied values that individuals assign to their life, with most ranging in the $50k-$200k range. Such a figure would be an obvious starting point for the discussion of where the cap should take place and the cost-benefit trade-off that makes the most sense for society overall.