Recent debate over the coming health care “reform” has begun to interchangably discuss two new institutions which might be created as a result of said reform. I first heard of the “co-op” idea in the context of the Gang of Six meetings (involving moderates from some of the least diverse and populous states in the country) and the obsession with crafting a bill that some Republican, any Republican, would vote for. Following the president's speech this week, it is clear that the non-profit co-op, or the weak public option, are now the most likely outcomes. To that I say: why bother?
What we've admitted now is that, if there is such a thing as a public good, healthcare is not one of them. Police, education, roads, fire departments, and other services are regarded as public goods in this country and there's some sort of provision to make sure everyone has guaranteed access in some way. All are necessary for the protection, safety, health, and betterment of the public. One's life could very well be at risk without the provision of one or more of these goods. If we have such a thing as a public good, and we define it as such, how does health care not fit into this category? If it does not, why bother defining any of these as public goods at all?
There are plenty of people who share this view and while morally bankrupt, they are at least honest about their belief in the morality of markets. Reason magazine doesn't beat around the bush trying to curry favor with constituent groups like the elderly or military families when proposing these sorts of things. If the common good exists and covers the things necessary for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then either admit it and make health care a public good or say you disagree, that markets are the only way such goods should be provided, and privatize them. Stop wasting time and money on creating co-ops (which, as non-government co-operative entities, don't need legislation to operate anyway!) and using subsidies and mandates to "promote competition" and just get out of the job of providing for the common welfare and privatize as much as possible in the name of efficiency and morality. Xe (the former Blackwater) is waiting.
Of course, as a nation we largely reject this morally bankrupt, Ayn Rand position. But one thing is sure. We have government-run and funded health care already: Medicare and the Veterans Administration. They work. They're popular. Maybe it's better that I put it this way: if we value human life as much as we claim to, if we are the so-called seat of liberty we claim to be, then extend to our citizens the excellent care we offer to our seniors and soldiers. But if we still want to give profit a role in health care and not extend publicly provided coverage to all regardless of ability to pay, then why bother passing a bill at all?