Are many Americans really unable to afford health care? No. Or, more precisely, the question is flawed — as I argued in this column a few years ago. Here are some key paragraphs:
But health care, like most things in life, is not like pregnancy. It comes in an enormous range of degrees. At one extreme is the amount and quality of health care that Bill Gates might purchase — personal physicians and pharmacists, each devoted exclusively to Gates; monthly physicals conducted with the most advanced technology; immediate transportation in a private jet to the world’s finest hospitals for treatment by the world’s most acclaimed physicians; and recuperation at luxurious Swiss resorts attended round-the-clock by a staff of doctors, nurses and dieticians of unparalleled excellence.
Now imagine the opposite extreme — the case of someone who can afford no health care at all. This horribly unfortunate person would not only be unable to visit a physician to check out that runny nose or that blurry vision, he could not afford even to buy over-the-counter antihistamines, aspirin, cough drops, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, reading glasses, Band Aids, athlete’s-foot spray, vitamins, toothpaste, condoms, or any of the many other health care and personal hygiene products for sale in every supermarket.
Almost all Americans, of course, consume an amount and quality of health care somewhere between the amount consumed by billionaires and the amount consumed by homeless paupers.