Saturday, July 8, 2017

Evaluating Healthcare Policy Consequences

I read the news today, oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
--The Beatles

One of the best books someone can read to improve their economic thought process, particularly w.r.t. evaluating economic policy, is Henry Hazlitt's classic Economics in One Lesson.

Using various policy topics (e.g., minimum wage, tariffs, welfare programs), Hazlitt repeatedly demonstrates how to apply Bastiat's analysis of 'that which is seen and that which is not seen.' Hazlitt prompts the reader to look beyond outcomes that typically make headlines (e.g., "layoffs resulting from process automation") to the less discussed but usually important consequences (e.g., long run effects on prosperity from productivity improvement projects).

Such perspective is invaluable when making sense of public policy issues, such as the current healthcare debate. Proponents of state-run healthcare splash headlines with threats that millions of people will die, or at least lose their healthcare coverage, if Obamacare is repealed and/or replaced. Such claims, of course, are dubious to begin with (e.g., here, here, here) and smacks of emotional capture propaganda.

But even if those claims contained elements of truth, a complete and honest analysis involves evaluating other policy. What has been the effect of Obamacare on jobs, for instance? On the availability of healthcare resources? On health insurance premiums? On healthcare productivity and innovation?

Consider as well the social consequences of forcing some people to produce healthcare resources for the benefit of others? And what would have happened had those resources not been forcibly diverted?

Small minds respond to what is fed to them about healthcare. Inquiring minds go beyond.

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