As health care financing rises yet again to the top of our national legislative agenda, some fundamental questions ought to be strongly considered. First, and most fundamental: Is some level of healthcare a right, that the government is therefore obligated to protect? Is it better viewed as a common good, like roads and fire protection services, that everybody pays for through taxes and everybody benefits from? Should it be treated as a luxury item, like large-screen TVs and designer clothing, that only those who can afford it get to enjoy?
Other important questions: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current system of financing health care? Who does it benefit? Who does it harm? What will be the effects on patients, intended and unintended, of changing the current system? Who will benefit, and who will be harmed by those changes? What will be the effects on physicians and health insurance companies? How will any changes affect the patient-physician relationship, for good or for ill?
Is the free market the best way to finance health care? Or is it best publicly financed? Or some mixture of both? Why?
A most important question is, How does the system treat the most disadvantaged, the poorest, the most helpless or down on their luck, and the ones who need it the most? How should it treat them?
What should the ideal health care system for patients look like? Can we start moving towards that ideal? How?
Other fundamental questions will no doubt present themselves to the reader.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.