Although as a matter of self-protection I’ve been following the latest developments in health care policy, I have no interest in how the matter is ultimately resolved because I think the wrong questions are being asked. And wrong questions inevitably lead to wrong answers.
Charles Hughes Smith is asking the right question, which I will rephrase as: what is health care worth? He starts with a simple demonstration that we have completely lost sight of the true value of health care, by looking at the cost of having a baby in 1952 at the Santa Monica hospital. Here are the inflation-adjusted prices.
- Private deluxe room: $183 (per day or per stay, I can’t tell)
- Baby care: $48.50 per day
- Obstetrical service: $244
- Cesarian section: $244 additional, plus anesthetic charge
- Circumcision: $40.50.
Modern day prices are all over the map, but our last hospital birth (Elizabeth, in 2002, normal delivery, less than 24 hour stay) set us back $13,000 on paper. Even our last home birth cost us around $3,000, although that included prenatal visits. But according to the above schedule, Santa Monica Hospital would have charged us $475.50.
Smith’s proposed solution makes for interesting reading, but it isn’t worth serious consideration—because no proposal to fix the system is worth serious consideration. As a practical matter, the problem is unsolvable by any means available to us. No one will be able to persuade us that health care is only worth one-twentieth of what it is currently costing us. However, Smith’s solution may be the one that is eventually ‘adopted’—after the current system collapses and people are reduced to suppying their health needs on an individual level, without being subsidized by their neighbors as is the case now.