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Health Is a Right; Health Care Is Not

Posted by on October 23, 2008

[This post was originally written for my employer’s blog, Show-Me Daily.]

There’s a nice short article on KOMU Channel 8’s website advocating increased public funding for health care in Missouri. Now, I am not a monster. I do think it would be better if more people had better health care — but I am not willing to ignore the costs. Therefore, I disagree with the efficacy of the method supported in this piece. Sure, if we increase taxes or divert funds from current projects, we can spend more on health care. But there is little reason to believe this would bring about a preferable outcome.

My complaint is twofold. Firstly, it is difficult to be sure that public funds would be spent in the areas of greatest need. There is instead reason to believe that leaving money in the hands of the taxpayers will allow them to spend it on whatever medical treatment has the highest benefit/cost ratio for their particular time and place. Second, let’s not forget that public spending in particular areas tends to crowd out comparable private industry in those areas, even when that private area is charitable in nature. From the article:

Brown gets free therapy at the University of Missouri’s School of Health Professions from a program that runs on donations. Brown and his [fiancée] realize without it he would have no therapy at all.

Now, the government may have established incentives, such as tax breaks, to encourage this kind of behavior from the SHP — but this is plainly a privately funded project. Rather than encourage the government to tax/spend more on something that most people would agree benefits those in need, instead perhaps it would be worthwhile to encourage increased private donations to such programs, demanding no funds from already cash-starved public coffers. And, more importantly, let us celebrate the decency of the SHP and its donors for providing such a wonderful service to those in need.
For related reading from the Show-Me Institute, see Calvin Harris’ recent op-ed.

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