Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mazer: The Business of Health Care

The Spring 2010 issue of The Undercurrent has published an article by 4th-year medical student Laura Mazer entitled, "The Business of Healthcare".

What I especially liked about her piece was that she cut to the heart of the health care policy debate:
Medicine often focuses only on the physical act of living -- breathing in and out, keeping the heart beating. But human life is more than the functioning of the moving parts. Although healthcare may be the only requirement for a brain-dead accident victim on life support, it is not the only requirement for the rest of us. To live, we need food, we need shelter, we need companionship and work, and hundreds of other material and spiritual requirements. Healthcare is a necessity -- and after a car accident, or during a flu infection, it may be the most important necessity. But it is not the only requirement for life.

When people talk about a 'right' to healthcare, they mean an entitlement to healthcare. They mean that unlike other goods and services that must be earned through individual work or trade, healthcare should be provided for free.

Medicine is not the only industry that fulfills a necessity for life, so what entitles us to the products of this particular industry, and not others? Why not food or clothes? And why not those products that provide a good life -- feather beds or paintings or tickets to the movies? Or are we entitled to those as well?

The issue goes far beyond healthcare. It is a question of what the government's role should be in providing for its citizens. Should the government collect taxes to provide citizens with whatever goods and services they deem 'necessary?' Or is it the responsibility of individual citizens to work for whichever products and services they can independently earn -- with the government existing to secure their freedom to pursue these ends?
(Read the full text of "The Business of Healthcare".)

I'm glad to see that one of America's future physicians is asking exactly the right questions!