Sunday, March 28, 2010

Conservative Hopes for Health Reform

Republicans have become the defenders of the status quo with regard to health care, and this is the wrong side of the issue. The only virtue of the status quo is that it is "the devil we know." The Democrat health reform law ushers in the devil we don't know, yet. But I have (conservative) hopes that the change will be for the better.

  1. The health care system has long suffered from the plague of "free riders." These are uninsured people who show up in emergency rooms demanding -- and receiving -- care. As a prosperous and compassionate nation, we are not willing to withhold care from sick, indigent people. The right thing to do is to mandate that everyone have adequate health insurance and have the public pay for it for those that cannot afford it.

  2. Protecting public health, like national defense, is one of the (few) basic roles of government. When an individual's self-interest is at odds with public health, government needs to act to protect public health. Children and travelers overseas are required to be vaccinated against a host of dangerous, contagious diseases. Quarantining persons infected with certain diseases has been practiced by governments for centuries, with mixed results.

    As science and technology advance, it is increasingly possible and appropriate to monitor for and intervene with effective prophylactic measures in the event of public health emergencies. Why not monitor everyone for communicable diseases and mandate effective treatments and vaccinations? Would the public health benefits outweigh the potential threats to individual liberty and privacy? I think so.

  3. The structure of the health care industry is exceedingly complex. Incentives, liabilities, and regulation in the health care system are often perverse, leading to bloated costs and adverse outcomes (e.g., unexpected deaths). Reform is needed to rationalize the industry, reduce waste and improve outcomes.
I am for health care reform. The new law is not perfect. But perfect is not just the enemy of good, it is the ally of bad. I know the status quo is bad, and this law is a first, necessary step toward a better health care system.