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I heard an interview with a medical doctor who supported the health care overhaul passed this year. His strongest claim for why “we” needed health reform led by smart government policy was that half of American families earn $50,000 or less.

If that’s the best idea for reform, we have really set the bar low.

  1. Why does a low income mean that health reform is in order? Why not some other kind of reform? Like education reform or professional athletics reform?
  2. If I made an argument based on the premise that “families do not have enough income” would it follow from that point that the best way to deal with low income is to fiddle around in the markets for things families buy? Would it not make a wee-bit more sense to understand why it is that some families do not make more income, and construct policies to promote that? Promoting health reform on the grounds that families do not have enough income is akin to promoting NFL football reform on the grounds that wide receivers do not run fast enough. And that analogy really is way too favorable to the health reformer’s point.
  3. Should it matter that 40 years ago, over 63% of American families earned less than $50,000 per year? After all, if the share of families earning a particular amount is the reason for health reform, would it not follow that the justification for reform has shrunk year after year after year? Would that not suggest we do nothing?
  4. Did we need “food reform” or “clothing reform” or “housing reform” back when these necessities made up 75% of the typical family’s budget, and when the typical family earned $10,000 per year (around 100 years ago)? Because we had no such policies, and despite a mass of poor regulations and interventions in many of those markets, today the typical family spends only 1/3 of their budget on these necessities, and “access to these basic needs” is all but universal.

Oh, but I am sure the best response I’ll get is, “health care is different,” or some version of an externality argument (see yesterday’s post).

2 Responses to “On My Drive into Work”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    IMHO, you really nailed it with points #3 & #4.

  2. […] On My Drive into Work. Cornell economist Michael Rizzo’s argument that, if “because half of American families earn $50k or less” is our best argument for reforming health care (as opposed to inefficiency, quality, or any other number of factors, etc.), then we’ve really set the bar low. […]

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