Monday, September 7, 2009

American Health Care Wants

Ross has a really good article in today's NYT on the morality and practicality of physician-assisted suicide. He writes:

There are many good reasons to oppose assisted suicide. It transforms a healing profession into a killing profession. It encourages relatives to see a loved one’s slow death as a problem to be solved, rather than a trial to be accepted. And as Emanuel noted in his 1997 essay, its “beneficiaries” are far more likely to be suffering from psychological distress than unbearable physical pain.

But in the profligate, Promethean United States, it probably won’t lead to rationing-by-euthanasia. It’s just as likely to become one more “intervention” that we insist every health insurance plan should cover — on our way, perhaps, to a rendezvous with fiscal suicide.

I agree with Ross's ultimate conclusion. The furor over government-sponsored "death panels" isn't just silly and distracting -- it's totally missing the point.

The problem with increased government intervention into the American health care system isn't rationing. (In fact, as regular readers of this blog know, I think that some sort of rationing is essential from purely practical point of view.) The problem is that Americans want unlimited care at unlimited expense. We also want unlimited choice, as Ross points out.

In the United States, the number of state mandated benefits has risen steadily over the past few years. (Here is a helpful old post by Tyler Cowen considering the economic implications of state mandated benefits.) We continue to call on our lawmakers to force health insurers to cover more -- not fewer -- medical services.

Americans want to have it all. We want to maintain our high wages. We want to keep our costly fee-for-service insurance plans. We want to be able to choose our medical providers. And we want access to the most expensive, cutting-edge treatments available.

We just want someone else to pay for everything.

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