One of the smartest and most successful guys I've had the privilege of knowing is engaging in our attempt at a non-partisan debate about the politically charged subject of healthcare reform. Snatching the discussion from Facebook to Cobb, we started with First Things, where the philosophy of rights and goods was, I thing a very good jumping off point about getting into the essential difference between the way the public sector rations goods and the way the private sector rations goods.
We start here with the following:
It’s a mistake to think of health care as a right. It is not a right; it is a good. Freedom of speech, by contrast, is a right, as is freedom of religious belief. They are privileges that inure to individuals as a consequence of the primordial right, free will. That is why we see them as inalienable. The exercise of these rights does not depend on any action of government, but rather on its inaction. Government may not legitimately interfere with their exercise, but nothing mandates that the government provide us with printing press or chapel.
Health care is different. It is more akin to the other goods which sustain life: food, clothing, and shelter. A well-ordered society exists to protect its members from the unlawful taking of life, and is structured to facilitate its members’ acquisition of these goods.
But health care differs from these other goods: First, health care is not absolutely essential for all people on a daily basis; second, there is an insufficient supply in this world to meet the demand of those who would have it. There is enough food in the world to feed everyone. Hunger and famine are the result of its inadequate distribution, not its absolute dearth. There are enough garments in the world to clothe everyone, and enough roofs to protect all from the rain. Health care, in contrast, is a far scarcer resource. Descartes once remarked that common sense is the most equitably distributed attribute in the world, because we never see anybody who feels he doesn’t have enough. Health care is not like common sense. We often see people who feel they don’t have enough, or at least can’t get enough at a price they’re willing or able to pay.
And then our debate ensued with I think these key important points:
This is the House Democrats' big health care reform bill. Broadly, it seeks to expand health care coverage to the approximately 40 million Americans who are currently uninsured by lowering the cost of health care and making the system more efficient. To that end, it includes a new government-run insurance plan (a.k.a. a public option) to compete with the private companies, a requirement that all Americans have health insurance, a prohibition on denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and, to pay for it all, a surtax on households with an income above $350,000. A more detailed summary of the bill by the House Committee on Education and Labor can be read here (four-page .pdf).