Healthcare is not a Normal Good

Freakonomics » New Freakonomics Podcast: Does College Still Matter? And Other FREAK-y Questions Answered.

[Healthcare] is virtually the only part of the economy where I can go out and get any service I want—cancer treatment, open heart surgery, have a wart removed, whatever it is—and I pay $3 for it or $5 for it or nothing, even if it costs $50,000 or $100,000.  I mean, imagine if you had the same situation with automobiles.  Where I could show up at the car dealership and I could say, ‘I want the Mercedes for free.’  Well, people say, ‘You can’t have the Mercedes for free.  You have to pay $50,000 for it.’  You say, ‘Why not, I have an inalienable right to free healthcare.  Right?  Why don’t I have an inalienable right to a free Mercedes?’

I love Levitt and Dubner, but here they lose their way.  They miss an important moral dimension to the argument over healthcare.  The best response was in the comments from “Miichael[sic?]”

To extend your Mercedes analogy, what usually happens is that you are told by your personal Car Expert that you need a Mercedes or you will die. You can’t afford one, and your Car Insurer says they won’t pay for one. So you walk. And you die.

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