Elizabeth Warren recently rolled out her new “Medicare-for-All” plan with the strong claim that “Health Care Is A Basic Human Right.” She then backed up that claim with a story about how, when she was in middle school, her father had a heart attack and their health care expenditures nearly cost her family its home. From those two observations, she has crafted her massive entitlement system which will, when the dust settles, collapse. It will fail as individuals become unable to receive timely health care, and it will exacerbate the dislocations that plagued the Warren family. Why? Because her two points represent the worst way to think about health care, both on the revenue side and on the expenditure side.
On the first point, the stirring claim that health care is a “right” obscures all references to correlative duties. Under classical legal thought, a right to health care referred to the ability of a person to take his own money and spend it on health care with whatever health care providers that he chose. The correlative duties on the rest of the world were not to fund his care but to stand aside and let those contracts go forward as the parties chose. As in all areas of human endeavors, voluntary transactions normally generate gains for both sides. In health care markets, families and individuals are often unsure what contracts to make or why. But their best cure is to hire agents who can fill their knowledge gap, whether as personal advisors, employers, cooperatives, or religious or social groups.More