Do American values get in the way of healthcare reform?

World map size of per capita healthcare expenses Debates about healthcare reform are more intense and emotional than debates about most other contentious issues.
    I’ve been contemplating an answer all week during our spirited discussion on about healthcare reform.

One reason, of course, is that healthcare touches us all. Sickness and health, life and death—these are all inevitable, unavoidable aspects of the human experience.
    But there’s a uniquely American answer to the question: Fundamental American values prevent us from reforming healthcare.

Americans have an unusual belief in a limited government. This is true for conservatives and liberals.
    The beliefs of, say, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama about the proper role and authority of government are not that far apart. They seem far apart, but only inside America. Their positions are actually close when we examine the range of possibilities that exist in the world.
    The alternative to government coordination of healthcare is the market, which Americans of all political stripes support. But the market for healthcare is not a normal market. It doesn’t function like other markets. As Kenneth Arrow (a Nobel laureate) predicted almost 50 years ago, increased competition in healthcare raises costs. It doesn’t lower them. Today, healthcare here costs almost twice per capita as it does in other economically developed countries.
    The deadlock, then, is not between Republicans and Democrats. It’s a deadlock with some of our cherished values.
    What do you think?
    Do you buy my argument? There’s still time to add your comments to our discussion!
    No doubt, we’ll return to the topic of healthcare reform in the weeks and months ahead.

    (Next week, however, we’ll look at another controversial issue—violence in movies. Tune in next week and let us know where you stand!)


    So, did you recognize the map of the world at top today? It’s a cartogram of the world created by Mark Newman—showing country size reflecting that country’s per capita healthcare spending.

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