Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Two Statements about Health Care Reform

In the debate over health care, there are two statements that I feel reflect the dilemma.

Rich people should get higher quality health care if they are willing and able to pay for it.
Poor people should get lower quality health care since they can't afford it.

Of course, these statements say the exact same thing. People who favor a single payer system would likely disagree with these statements. People who favor a more market-based approach would likely agree with these statements. But many people would agree with the first statement and disagree with the second statement. Psychologists know that phrasing is very important in poll questions and that is why it is often difficult to gauge public opinion.
Our current system stinks and I know that. Our idea of universal health care is the Emergency Room, but if you have insurance you can see a doctor, get an MRI, and call in a prescription pretty easily. At the other extreme you have a single payer system where health care is free, but you have to wait six months to see a doctor.
In my mind, the real question in the health care debate is determining what level of health care people have a "right" to. I'm basically OK with preventative medicine, periodic check-ups, vaccinations, and other treatments which will lead to full recovery for the patient. I'm generally opposed to expensive procedures that simply prolong death. I think a lot of people might even agree with me on these points (or maybe not), but someone would have to draw the line between what level of health care is a right and what level is a privilege. Can you say Death Panel?

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