Psychiatry: The Scienc... Best Price: $7.12 Buy New $14.86 (as of 02:50 UTC - Details) People who seek the services of auto mechanics want car repair, not "auto care." Similarly, most people who seek the services of medical doctors want body repair, not "health care."
We own our cars, are responsible for the cost of maintaining them, and decide what needs fixing based partly on balancing the seriousness of the problem against the expense of repairing it. Our health-care system rests on the principle that, although we own our bodies, the community or state ought to be responsible for paying the cost of repairing them. This is for the ostensibly noble purpose of redistributing the potentially ruinous expense of the medical care of unfortunate individuals.
Pharmacracy: Medicine ... Best Price: $4.58 Buy New $12.98 (as of 11:12 UTC - Details)
But what is health care? The concept of reimbursable health-care service rests on the premise that the medical problem in need of servicing is the result of involuntary, unwanted happenings, not the result of voluntary, goal-directed behavior. Leukemia, lupus, prostate cancer, and many infectious diseases are unwanted happenings. Are we going to count obesity, smoking, depression and schizophrenia as the same kinds of diseases?
Many Americans would willingly pay for insurance to protect them against the exorbitant cost of treating their own leukemia. But how many Americans would willingly pay for insurance to protect them from the expenses of treating their own depression?
Everyone recognizes that the more fully we wish insurance companies to defray our out of pocket expenses for our car repairs, the higher the premium they will charge for the policy. Yet foregoing reimbursement for trivial or unnecessary health-care costs in return for a more suitable health-care policy is an option unavailable under the present system. Everyone with health insurance is compelled to protect himself from risks, such as alcoholism and erectile dysfunction, that he would willingly shoulder in exchange for a lower premium.
July 17, 2009
Thomas Szasz is professor of Psychiatry Emeritus at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse, New York. Visit his website.