Something’s gotta give

by Russ Roberts on August 5, 2010

in Health, Politics, Uncategorized

Missouri voters have voted against the federal mandate in ObamaCare requiring everyone to buy health insurance.

Not surprisingly, they like their current health care more than ObamaCare.

The problem is that the current health care system is not sustainable. The American people need to eat spinach. But Obama sold health care reform as if it were chocolate cake. It’s not. It’s spinach and a particularly distasteful kind of spinach and most people realize it. Strangely enough, people prefer chocolate cake to spinach. Part of me finds the Missouri vote comforting. But we shouldn’t to cheerful that the status quo has been preserved. Something’s gotta give. The spinach is coming.

If we could make more people pay for their medical care rather than third parties, I think we could get some pretty good tasting spinach. But saving the current system via “reform” is going to always be distasteful.

Here’s another way to see it. As my generation gets old and wants nearly free (to the patient) health care of the highest quality without explicit rationing (the current system for the bulk of the population), the burden on the rest of the population is extremely unpleasant. So either the politician has to pretend that health care is still going to be nearly free to the patient and of the highest quality and lower cost to the taxpayer or the politician has to introduce some explicit form of rationing. The first is nearly impossible. The second scares people. So something has to give.

I’d prefer a market-based system with more out-of-pocket and fewer subsidies to insurance and the elderly. That scares people, too. But something scary has to happen because you can’t eat chocolate cake with other people’s money forever when there are a whole lot of chocolate-cake eaters.

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