Sick of being sick

By Megan McArdle

A commenter responds to my last post thus:

People don't have a right to money from society simply because they have gotten sick.

I disagree. Now what?



Well, obviously, at some level we're just going to have to agree to disagree.

But it raises some interesting questions. Why do you disagree? If we should give money to sick people regardless of need, is it because being sick sucks and we're giving people bonus payments for having sucky things happen to them? If that's the case, why don't we give people bonus payments for, say, being really ugly, or being severely socially awkward, both of which seem at least arguably worse than, say, having chronic asthma.

Also, if they deserve money just for being sick, why give them the money in the form of healthcare? Wouldn't a cash transfer be even better? Then the people who wanted to be treated could spend the money on healthcare, and other people could spend the money on something they valued even more than healthcare. It seems like a Pareto improvement in net happiness over a simple single-payer system.

Finally, if they deserve money just for being sick, why don't we peg the money to the suffering the disease causes, rather than the cost of treating the disease? Inquiring minds want to know.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2007/08/sick-of-being-sick/1811/