Rationing, Economics and Clarity

The healthcare debate has hit many strident notes, and even more troubling is that the debate has been subject to distortion and misinformation. These erroneous pronouncements serve no one safe the egos of those who originate them. Certainly they do not advance the cause of the public good. One of the underlying distortions is about the concept of rationing. Critics speak of rationing health care as if the idea was unheard of in the United States and probably unique to countries like the U.K. and their policies regarding the NHS. Is that really so? Is the idea of rationing health care something alien to the practice of healthcare in the U.S.? Some will be tempted to say yes. And yet, doesn’t the market itself ration healthcare? Aren’t the uninsured, anywhere from 44 to 47 million people, a manifestation of this rationing? Even factoring in that some among the uninsured could afford health care, the proportion is still significant enough to warrant notice. The market similarly rations many things by creating a discrepancy in the affordability of goods and services. It’s not a question of those who can afford diamonds and those who can’t or those who can buy Mercedes and those who can barely afford old clunkers. It’s a question of econ 101 and the point whereby the supply and demand curves meet delineating where some can afford certain goods and some are automatically excluded. That may explain why some can afford good health care plans and some have to do with high co-pays for little coverage, but it’s still a form of rationing.
The problem is not about the dynamics of econ 101 or even about rationing. Unless we see through our games, and let go of our ignorance, fears and excuses, we won’t be able to think clearly enough about health care to know a good plan when we hear it.