I like Michael Cannon a lot, but I fear his (and Michael Tanners’s) book (unlike fellow Cato-ite Arnold Kling’s) was very, very weak on dealing with the problems of actually sick people. It devoted a whole three lines to the problem of what happens to controlling costs beyond the deductible–even though everyone knows that that’s the most expensive part of health care. Kling at least knows that covering them is a problem, although he never really comes up with answer either (he does dance around the edge of high risk pools for the chronically ill).
But I just assume the liberal LA Times is carrying this op-ed from the two Michaels as part of its affirmative action program. Cannon and Tanner have amazingly discovered that universal insurance does not mean immediate access to any care anybody might want for free. And so they have decided that lots of people not having insurance is therefore OK.
There are two basic problems with this logic.
First, and this is barely worth saying, but care is rationed in the US just as much as it is elsewhere. if you don’t believe me, believe the capitalists at the Wall Street Journal—who ran a long series on it in 2003, and believe fellow free-marketeer John Goodman. So saying that people have to wait for care in Europe or Canada is true but not an immediate indictment of their health care systems. Of course rationing of health care may not impact Cato scholars or even hopefully liberal health care consultants in San Francisco, but it sure as hell impacts poor uninsured people waiting for care in (say) Galveston, Texas.
Second and this much more important—a universal health insurance system means that the insurance is universal. What does insurance do? Insurance ensures that if you are not financially wiped out from a disaster, such as having your house burn down or in this case, being sick.
There’s no point rehashing the bankruptcy statistics here—the point is that the key reason the Europeans, Canadians and Japanese support their universal insurance systems is because they know that a spell of illness does not mean financial destitution. Here it is quite possible that it will, and in many cases it does–but don’t worry it’s only one quarter of bankruptcy cases. Barely worth bothering about, eh?
That the Cato boys couldn’t even address this—which is by far the most important problem with the US lack of universal health insurance—is presumably because the LA Times was too cheap to give them more words. At least I assume so. It can’t be that they think it doesn’t matter, can it?
CODA: Meanwhile I just found out that John Goodman has a blog.It’s called The John Goodman Health Blog. I’ve been there poking a little fun in some of the comments, including this one about the bankruptcy issue. I suggest you all go there to check it out too and join the intellectual giants like Pauly, Herzlinger, Pipes et al in the comments.