Monday, July 8, 2013

On Healthcare

Sorry, it's time for me to address the parts of me that are news junkie, pundit, and economics teacher. What sparked this, two recent columns that caught my eye promising a chance at a real overhaul of what we do regarding healthcare in this country.

The first is a very recent column by Ross Douthat in which he shows how the adage is true: sometimes not making a decision constitutes making a decision. Second, a special iPad-only edition of The Week* re-ran a column written back in February by Jeb Golinkin. The two are offering me both reason for hope and vindication for my cynicism.

I was at first disheartened when I heard the administration's decision to postpone the employer mandate, not because I necessarily agree with the Affordable Care Act, but because I felt further delay of the legislation would simply continue the ability of the law (or apprehension about it) to stalemate hiring decisions by businesses. But if Douthat is correct, that really we're just seeing an awkward transition to a model in which we no longer rely on employer-provided health coverage, then I'm all for the delay.

My greatest objection to the Affordable Care Act is not that I think it constitutes some overreach by government, but that I think it fails to address the costliness of health care in this nation. Also, I'm concerned that it only adds layers of complexity and confusion to a segment of the economy already bloated by complexity and confusion.

I can't help but think we would benefit from a system in which individuals are buying policies from a competitive marketplace, at least more so than from a system in which we rely on our employers to provide it (at least in part). The current system gives us a poor sense of whether the price of health coverage is reasonable, locks the labor force into undesirable jobs, and benefits middle- and upper-class Americans who can command the benefit from their employers.

Golinkin serves us with a useful insight as to how the fee-for-service model is what most inhibits progress on the affordability of healthcare. That is a particular characteristic of how we do healthcare I'd like to see gone as well.

The two columns, linked above, are worth reading.

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*My favorite magazine has me a bit frustrated. The Week typically takes July 4 off (which is fine - they don't publish four weeks a year). However, they slyly offered an extra edition digitally this week. It was re-prints of full-length op-eds from the past year on key issues. I'm a bit concerned at the slightly leftward tilt of their selections in that issue. I pray that they can stay objectively above the partisan fray. I find the whole iPad-only nature of the issue very obnoxious, though. I think we could move on from the age of Apps and rely on our tablets to browse the web the old-fashioned way, rather than with apps. If you're still reading, I encourage you to read this gem about apps from Clark Howard's website.

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