Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Moral Case for Universal Healthcare



I thought Ezra Klein of the Washington Post had an interesting post yesterday. In it, he wondered why Democrats were not making the moral case for healthcare as much as the economic case.

We have heard about proposals to make our healthcare system more sound. These range from taxing employer benefits to reduce healthcare inflation, to mandating insurance to make for better risk pools. Click on the hyperlinks to see proposals I’ve written about.

Indeed there is a moral case to be made for universal coverage. It’s that a person who works hard and plays by the rules shouldn’t have to go bankrupt because he suddenly develops cancer and has no insurance to help him cover it. The moral case can also be framed as one of rights. Healthcare is important to the ability to live a dignified life, just as education is. In the richest country on earth, people shouldn’t die prematurely for want of money when it is easy for us as a society to help.

Now there is another moral case to be made against universal healthcare. It goes something like this: some people work harder than others, and some people have more unhealthy habits, and unfortunate dispositions. Why should a CEO who works 80 hours a week pay extra taxes to insure someone who eats big Macs and doesn’t work as hard? But that moral case becomes a much harder sell the moment you substitute say a working class construction worker who works 50 hours a week. Americans want that person to have adequate health insurance.

I think the White Houses is focusing more on the economic case because of the state of affairs in the country. We are in an economic crisis, and so reforms need to be shown to reduce costs. We also have a substantial deficit, so Americans are leery of adding to it. Still, the moral case for universal healthcare is a persuasive one, and should be made.

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