Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More Thoughs From The Health Care Front

Megan McArdle blogs briefly about John McCain's health care plan. One important issue got my mind spinning:

Likewise, the campaign didn't really have a good answer to the pooling problem: what happens to people with expensive pre-existing conditions when they have to buy insurance on their own? That's one of your primary lobbies for universal health care; I doubt the McCain plan will satisfy them.

If I had to come up with reasons to oppose free market health care, that would have to be it- What do you do about people who can't afford to pay for their own expensive care and don't currently have health insurance to cover the costs of a current medical condition?

As Megan points out, this is the group most strongly in favor of universal health care, which isn't all that surprising given that such a system would be the only way this group could have their health care costs covered without having it appear to be a government handout. The market system- any market system that the government doesn't completely screw with- doesn't have a good answer for individuals with pre-existing conditions and non-existent medical insurance. But don't let anyone tell you that this is somehow a failing of the market, because it's not.

The fact of the matter is that those with pre-existing conditions tend to have large medical bills and the fact that individuals who need lots of medical care and lots of drugs can wrack up large bills is not the fault of the market, it's just unfortunate. Similarly, insurance exists to guard againast future risks, not to defer the costs of current expenses. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, not taking on customers who are going to cost them more than they're going to pay in starting on day one. Again, not a fault of the market.

I don't have any great answers, but I do know this for certain. I'm always willing to entertain plans for the government to help those who lack the means to help themselves. At the very least, such social welfare programs are far less costly and far less damaging then structuring entire sectors of the economy around the needs of a small, but troubled and needy minority.


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