Posted by: bridget | 8 February 2007

Federal(ist) Health Care

As previously blogged, Wal-Mart is teaming up with unions in order to push for government-sponsored health care. There are two problems with a national health care system: 1) loss of liberty; and 2) increased strain on rural areas.

The theory behind government-sponsored health care is that it is a basic right. This misstates the truth. Health, free from government or other interference, is a right: neither the State nor another individual can bring harm to your person. De jure access to health care is also a right: the State may not stop you from nor delay you in seeing a doctor, going to a hospital, or deciding on your treatment with a physician. De facto bars to any right, however, need not be remedied by the government. If a person is unable to pay for the complete exercise of his rights, the State is not responsible for picking up the tab.

Liberals who are enamoured by the idea of the “right” to health care miss the point. When the government pays for health care, the fundamental right to protect one’s health, free from interference, is ceded to the State. No longer with the individual make his own decisions, in conjuction with a physician: Congress (or a designated agency) will determine everything from the physician one visits to appropriate reasons for receiving state-subsidised oral contraception. Yes, liberals: a Republican Congress may require, as a cost-saving measure, women to pay market cost for their own birth control and Plan B.

Another issue with government-sponsored health care is the strain on rural areas, and, of course, uniformity across state lines. Massachusetts requires that all health plans cover in-vitro fertilisation. A young woman cannot get (inexpensive) health care that does not cover any maternity issues; as a result, the $300/month price tag is out of range for many young people. Virginia, on the other hand, allows for maternity riders. A woman will pay about $75/month in health insurance (outside of the DC metro area) if she forgoes various add-ons. This variety allows states to be the “laboratories of justice” envisioned by the Framers. Ideally, the whole country need not suffer under a bad regimen in order for a lesson to be learned.

Furthermore, states can tailor their requirements to their specific populations. A state with an older population could, for example, require covering drugs frequently used among the elderly. Malpractice law varies by state. Health care is cheaper in rural areas because the cost of living is less expensive. “Universal” health care is impossible to so tailor. Low cost-of-living areas will subsidise expensive urban hospitals (and, of couse, the health insurance premiums of doctors in Miami-Dade, Florida). There will be a shift of costs from efficient markets to inefficient markets.

Supposedly, all of this is a vindication of basic human rights.

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