Medical technology

Allen Smith allens at yang.earlham.edu
Tue Jun 2 00:26:21 EST 1992

In article <9206012230.AA26969 at rust.zso.dec.com>, french at RUST.ZSO.DEC.COM writes
>> Huh?  If the rich are paying for their own medical care why does
>> this divert resources from education.  Given the structure of
>> our society the people that go into medicine and the people that
>> go into education are rarely an overlapping set.  If anything,
>> rich people spending money on medicine will divert money from other
>> questionably productive uses for their money (real estate? art?).
> The point is that shifting a massive amount of resources to the
> health care industry will not necessarily improve the quality of
> life.   Those resources must come from somewhere and, presumably,
> the other sectors of the economy serve to improve some facet of the
> quality of life.  For example, what about the family that raids little
> Johny's education fund to pay for grandpa's stay in a nursing home?
        It isn't the business of anyone else what that family does. It's
not anyone else's money. If someone chooses to spend their money on health
care, then that isn't anyone else's business except the health care provider's.
>> Putting a sales tax on health care proceedures would be even harder
>> to pass than one on food.  The public would never sit still for taxes
>> on things which are viewed as basic needs.
> It would be absurd to tax basic health care - you can buy a lot of good
> health care for a reasonable amount of money.   What should be taxed is
> health care that does not provide good value.  This would serve two purposes.
> First, it would redirect resources to other areas of the economy that
> serve a more important need.  And second, it would send a clear message
> to the public that not all medical procedures provide an equally good value.

        I can see to some degree taxation of non-neccessary health care,
just as other services are taxed. In other words, normally sales taxes
don't include drugs (nor should they), and some relief from other taxes is
found (income taxes, I believe (at least in some states) have a health
care deduction). Some medical care may be such (plastic surgery, etc.) that we
don't want to make it cheaper by exempting it.
>> You get the money indirectly anyway by taxes on doctors salaries, hospital
>> profits, equipment manufacturers profits, etc.)
> Essentially, you are saying that we should let market forces determine
> the price of all goods and the problem of resource allocation will take
> care of itself.  There is a problem with this policy.  What happens when those
> who control most of the resources have an uncontrollable desire to spend
> those resources in a way that is socially irresponsible?

        It gets spent in a way that you don't like. So? It isn't your money.
> Is it good policy to allow the elderly to squander their money and their
> children's money on expensive health care that provides little or no social
> benefit?   Perhaps you can't stop someone from squandering their money, but
> you can and should tax certain health care procedures as luxuries.
        I can see this point somewhat, but I would say it isn't a matter
of can't stop someone from "squandering" their money. It's a matter of
shouldn't be able to stop someone from "squandering" their money, and (if
government) shouldn't stop someone from "squandering" their money. Social
benefit doesn't matter; it's not society's money.

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