Thursday, April 12, 2012

Competing government insurance company

We are embroiled in a great debate over health care reform. There are two aspects of the debate that are often not identified. The first is whether healthcare is a “right.” The second is the best way to deliver healthcare. When one does not separate the two issues, one biases the solution.
While I do not agree that healthcare is a right (you cannot morally produce a “right” for some by violating the rights of others), let us assume for the moment that it is so deemed. Then the issue becomes how is this “right” best delivered. It seems that the US has answered the first question and now struggles with the answer to the second.
It is the natural tendency of government to want to run things, hence we have the preoccupation with the single payer system or a competing government insurance company. The latter, using the concept of competition and government, is oxymoronic. Is there anyone outside of Washington DC that believes the government at the Federal or local level can run anything efficiently? The empirics regarding this issue are devastating — social security, Amtrak, medicare, medicaid, financial system regulation, the school system, potholes in the streets, the post office, infrastructure maintenance, the court system, garbage collection, department of motor vehicles, etc. etc. ad nauseum. One might reasonably argue that everything government touches deteriorates.
Back in the days of the Cold War, a joke that was popular in Europe went something like this: QUESTION — What would happen if the Soviet Union took control of the Sahara Desert? ANSWER — Initially no changes would be apparent; eventually there would be a shortage of sand.

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