Economics, Entitlements

Affordable Care Act: Sum Is Worse Than Parts

Relevant Magazine (“God. Life. Progressive Culture.”) asked Morna Murray, President and CEO of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (not an official organ of the Catholic Church), and yours truly to respond to the question: “What do we make of the recently passed (healthcare) bill in light of the Gospel?” The magazine asked us to respond to a series of questions and then gave us the opportunity to respond to each other’s answers.

They’ve just run a portion of the interchange. All our answers are faithfully reproduced, though most of them are shortened. Unfortunately, they decided not to include a few of my favorite questions. For instance, Relevant asked us to give the pros and cons of the recently passed “Affordable Healthcare” Act. As far as I’m concerned, these are the central moral questions for any piece of legislation. If you don’t rationally weigh the likely costs and benefits of a piece of legislation, justifiably conclude that the benefits outweigh the costs, and determine that the live alternatives won’t give you more benefits with fewer costs, then you’re not morally justified in supporting the policy.

Anyway, here’s how I answered these two questions with respect to the healthcare act:

What are the pros to the healthcare reform law that just passed (if any)?

Virtually any piece of legislation, no matter how flawed, will have some benefits, if considered in isolation. It’s the rare policy that takes a thousand steps backward, but not one step forward. The “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” takes a few steps forward. Most notably, it will probably make it possible for more people to have some form of health insurance. That’s a good thing, insofar as it allows more people to receive the healthcare they need. Everyone of good will wants everyone to be able to afford quality healthcare, though having a health insurance policy isn’t the same as receiving quality healthcare.

What are the cons (if any)?

The Affordable Care Act may take half a dozen steps forward, but it takes, say, 2,500 steps backward. Setting aside the fact that it will force citizens to (effectively) fund intrinsic moral evil [abortion], policies should be judged by net benefits and live alternatives. In other words, do the benefits outweigh the costs? And is there an alternative that would give us more benefits with fewer costs?

With this Act, the answers are clearly “no” and “yes” respectively. The Act will make worse most of the problems it is supposed to fix. The main problem with controlling healthcare costs in the United States is that a “third payer” intervenes between recipients and providers, so few people apply the economic reasoning to their healthcare that they apply to most other exchanges. Do you know the full cost of your last doctor visit? Probably not. That’s a serious problem. This Act will add fuel to the already raging “third-party payer” fire. It will make health insurance more expensive for millions of Americans and increase the total cost of healthcare; it will vastly increase the coercive power of the state; it will degrade the quality of care by discouraging healthcare providers and medical research and innovation; it will further distort the relationship between government and its citizens, and patients and their healthcare providers; it will hasten the plunge toward fiscal insolvency already under way because of the liabilities from the other big entitlements—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. And it will not do simple things that could help solve the basic problems—like fixing tax laws so we could have a real market for healthcare, fostering cross-state competition for health insurances, and reforming tort law to prevent frivolous malpractice suits.

Comments are closed.