Alex Tabarrok discusses the positive externalities associated with flu shots. Brad DeLong notes the ways in which our present health-care finance system fails to operate with any awareness of the large social value of getting one's flu shot.
Indeed, one thing that seems clear to me is that there are certain segments of the health care universe -- things like vaccinations -- that almost certainly ought to be "socialized" in a pretty strong sense irrespective of what we do with the rest of health care. A public Flu Shot Corps should be running around the city (or the shopping mall, wherever you're likely to find people) with credible badges and uniforms handing out flu shots and hunting people down in their homes, offices, supermarkets, wherever to ensure that getting these things are not only free but as convenient as possible. Then they could give you a sticker (so people stop annoying you) and a lollipop or something. This kind of thinking obviously doesn't apply to the entirety of our health care system (indeed, it might only be a small part) but these kind of simple preventive measures are the highest value portions of the system, and they ought to be pushed on people (not coerced but provided aggressively and conveniently) not charged for. How hard would it be for people armed with Sphygmomanometers to run around testing people and handing out brochures to those with problems?
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