Arnold Kling  

Health Policy Prescriptions

Economist's Apprentice, Master... A Kingdom for a Frame...

Malcolm Gladwell writes,

People without health insurance have bad teeth because, if you’re paying for everything out of your own pocket, going to the dentist for a checkup seems like a luxury. It isn’t, of course.

He argues that because we lack universal health coverage, people stint on preventive care, and this outweighs the moral hazard of people consuming too much health care when it is paid for by third parties.

A panel of five Stanford health policy experts has divergent views. For example, Paul Wise writes,

the general consensus [is] that health care should be provided on the basis of shared, collective interest, like police, rather than on the basis of individual, natural entitlement.

Once upon a time, the Constitution defined what was a "shared, collective interest." More recently, economists defined public goods as goods which involved substantial externalities. A vaccination program might be a public good. Dental care has far fewer externalities.

Nowadays, of course, people assert a "shared, collective interest" in just about everything.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (4 to date)
Matt McIntosh writes:

In a world where growing marijuana plants and selling the stuff locally constitutes interstate commerce, and taking someone's house to give it to a private company constitutes public use, why shouldn't dental care constitute a public good? If we're going to go crazy, let's go all the way!

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats."
-- H.L. Mencken

Bobby Corcoran writes:

Universal dental care might well be nearly self-financing. Healthy, straight, and clean teeth are very important for a child's self-esteem. They would also appear to be an important economic asset. I have often wondered to what extent a mouthful of beautiful teeth is correlated with adult income levels. Does anyone know of such a study?

Mcwop writes:

Maybe the government can legislate brushing and flossing.

Nigel Kearney writes:

Doesn't the UK have taxpayer funded dental treatment? Maybe they have bad teeth because they don't like waiting in line.

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