Debating Health Care Reform
By Arnold Kling
Next Thursday, I will be debating Robert Kuttner in Burlington, Vermont. To be precise, 4-5:30 p.m. on April 23 in the Grand Maple Ballroom of the Dudley H. Davis Center on the University of Vermont campus.
The hypothesis I’m going to offer is not definitive, and is not meant to be. But my read of the evidence is that at the root of our health care problem is an almost pathological aversion to making hard choices — an aversion that has, in its steadiness and implications, become the most consequential choice of all.
…There is no budget. We don’t want one. We’re profoundly uncomfortable saying that a person’s life, or health, is not worth the price of a particular procedure.
What we want is unlimited access to medical procedures without having to pay for them. What we get is extravagant use of medical procedures with high costs and low benefits. This is unsustainable and it will stop.
The debate should be about how the cost-benefit trade-offs and rationing will take place. I will argue that most health care spending should be paid for out of pocket, with insurance reimbursement only for very large expenses over a multi-year period. With consumers paying out of pocket, they will take price into account in making their choices, and they will self-ration. The alternative is to have government officials make the choices about what treatments people are to obtain. I do not think that this is a one-sided debate, in which one position is clearly better than the other. But I hope that Kuttner and I can have this debate, rather than go off into red herrings like drug company profits.