Is healthcare a privilege? Or is healthcare a right? It’s a nuanced debate.
When it comes to that debate, according to Kevin D. Williamson in his article The ‘Right’ to Healthcare:
“There isn’t one.”
That’s certainly a hard pill to swallow, particularly for people with chronic illness, or perhaps more popularly, “preexisting conditions.” It’s a term that needs unpacking, but that’s another article.
Williamson goes on to say there will always be limits on healthcare. He also seems to suggest that the limit to health care is less about cost and more about available resources, personnel, and time. With that stated, he adds that enough money will secure the care that one needs, because, according to Williamson:
“Rich people get better stuff.”
I can agree with that. More money usually means access to more goods, or a higher quality of goods, or both. Where we part ways, however, is the laissez faire manner in which Williamson accepts the healthcare situation, particularly for poor folk in comparison to rich folk, as inevitable, instead of looking at the causes, or coming up with solutions.
Money isn’t the limit Williamson thinks it is. Yes, things cost money. However, the problem is the stark difference of healthcare between the poor and the wealthy. Does healthcare really cost as much as we pay for it?
Healthcare And Services Are Limited By Providers
As I mentioned, Williamson leads his article stating that there will always be a limitation of some kind on health care, and he makes the point that it’s a matter of providers and provisions.
To do this, further in his article, Williamson claims to take money out of the equation. He talks about economics, a demand that outpaces the supply. However, this problem comes back to money too. Supply and demand are both intrinsically tied to money. Shortages, artificial or real, drive up prices.
True, there is a finite amount of resources on the planet. However, we can stretch those resources more than we do, or for more effect. We can use the supply more efficiently to meet the demand while keeping prices stable.
Artificially inflated costs make it difficult for medical facilities to keep up a supply. Most medicines are (relatively) cheap to produce; it’s the R&D that costs. Why is medication so expensive?
It Is All About The Profit Margin
Money that is no longer available to be made due to fair pricing is the opportunity cost of those who would otherwise get rich off of ridiculous markups.
Martin Shkreli , a.k.a. ‘Pharmabro’ is the poster child of this. He’s not the first one. He’s not the only one.
But even assuming a legitimate shortage of supply… In the case of healthcare, shortages of healthcare are localized, and really only exist for those who are impoverished. More resources there would increase the availability of providers, because those people who can afford medical care already get it without the need for community clinics.
That being said….
Inability To Solve One Problem Doesn’t Mean We Should Ignore Other Problems
If Williamson is really concerned about the lack of availability, why not see this as an opportunity to offer a solution? While acknowledging the problem, he instead chooses to misrepresent those concerned about the cost of healthcare.
The problem is not a matter of people hating others who profit. In reality, it’s a discontent with people who profit literally at the expense of others’ lives. Essentially, people who are abusing others AND making a profit for doing so. Low quality, high cost healthcare certainly is no substitute for abundance.
Either way, Williamson offers no solution to the actual problem, nor the facsimile he presents.
We can fix healthcare. In the process, we can solve the problem of jobs and the economy. The problems are linked.
Lower the costs of healthcare goods and services. Lower the cost of healthcare personnel training. Increase the quality of both through research and development.
In the short term, this means a financial hit. That’s why it hasn’t been done. In other words, there is something “deeply rooted” in us that instinctively thinks we are being abused when we can’t make money off of other people.
In the long term, it means more people with healthcare jobs. It means more people get the treatment they need. It means more people, now that they can afford healthcare, can go back to work and help stimulate the economy, instead of getting sicker and sicker, costing us more money.
Cost Vs. Benefit
To make one final point about cost: at the end of his article, Williamson uses the price of the Ferrari as an indication of his doctor’s skill and worth.
“My doctor had a picture on his wall in which he was posing with a Ferrari — one of his Ferraris. I was driving a Saturn VUE at the time. This seemed wrong in some way. ‘I think I am paying you too much,’ I said. He took a pensive moment, and responded: ‘Do you really want a doctor who can’t afford a Ferrari?'”
A system that works great for a select few and poorly for the masses isn’t ideal for a democracy.
I don’t care if my doctor can afford a Ferrari.
I just care that I can get quality medical care when I need it.
And doctors and Ferraris have nothing to do with each other in that regard.
Featured image from YouTube video.