Monday, December 1, 2008

How I stopped worrying and learned to love paying for the scalpel

In the third presidential debate this year, the candidates were asked if health care was a right or a responsibility. Obama went for the former, McCain the latter.

My acid test on this had been:

"Can you imagine a situation in which a person has been so careless in socking away money that doctors should put their implements aside and just let them die?"

If your answer is 'no' then you see health care as a right, and if your answer is 'yes' then you are a psychopath.*

That's what I used to think, but after all these years in the States I've changed my mind and come to see the beauty in the "best health care system in the world." Yes! I've come to realize that the market is the only truly efficient means of distributing precious resources, and what is the care of expensively trained doctors if not a precious resource?

So to prove the point, I'll put my money where my mouth is. I've saved up a bit of cash of late, and have decided to splurge on a cancer! Not a really expensive one, obviously, like a brain cancer, but something affordable that can still deliver solid consumer value. I've shopped around a few of the local quacks (ha ha, medical humor!), and have been quoted some very affordable rates for extracting a tumor from my foot, or maybe an arm. One surgeon who, I must say, had a particularly warm and friendly staff (and the most beautiful waiting room I've ever seen) offered me an excellent deal on an excision off the back of a hand. I'm not sure I'd feel great about a scar there, but he had a far more comfortable air than some of the other doctors I talked to, and say what you will, but service is important. I feel like I could really have a beer with that guy, or something.

My fiance says we should spend the money on getting cable TV instead, but, as I always say, if you don't have your health care you don't have anything at all. It's a toughie, but I feel more efficient already. Anyway, I'll let you all know. And heck, maybe I'll have a great experience and will be able to recommend it as a way to spend your nest egg too.

* American health care apologists will point out that their emergency rooms are legally obliged to treat anyone who walks in their doors. But nothing prohibits them from charging said person, at their moment of life-and-death distress, hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars. And charge they do. So does it change your math if instead of "die," I substitute "ruin financially for the rest of their life"? I still hold that only a psychopath could agree.

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