As I explain in my recent book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, the single greatest mistake in all of health policy is the belief that people should always get healthcare as long as it provides some positive benefit.
Ask yourself this question: Does that principle hold for any other good or service? When you enter a supermarket, do you buy every item that could possibly quench you thirst or quell your hunger? Or do you leave some desirable items on the supermarket shelf? When you walk in a clothing store, do you buy every piece of apparel that could possibly meet your wardrobe needs? When you buy a house, do you buy one large enough to meet every possible need you may have for comfortable shelter? Or do you purchase a house that is more affordable?
Well, if you are unwilling to apply the principle to food, clothing, or shelter, why would you insist on it in healthcare? I believe we could spend our entire national income on healthcare, not by frittering money away, but by spending it on goods and services that even in small ways could improve the odds of better health. Here are some examples of how we could do that:
Notice that in hypothetically spending all of this money, we have not yet cured a single disease or treated an actual illness. We are simply collecting information. If in the process of searching, we actually found something that warranted treatment, we could spend even more.
1. Mike Offit, “The Big Physical: Where to Go, What to Get,” Departures.com, Jan/Feb 2008, http://www.departures.com/articles/the-big-physical-where-to-go-what-to-get.
2. Simon Rottenberg, “Unintended Consequences: The Probable Effects of Mandated Medical Insurance,” Regulation, Cato Institute, undated, http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv13n1/reg13n1-rottenberg.html.
4. Krista Conger, “Study first to analyze individual’s genome for risk of dozens of diseases, potential responses to treatment,” Inside Stanford Medicine, Stanford School of Medicine, April 29, 2010, http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2010/april/genome.html.
5. Ron Winslow and Shirley S. Wang, “Soon, $1,000 will Map Your Genes,” Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2012.