Should health care only exist for the wealthy? Many Americans consider health care a commodity, to be purchased by consumers. The result of this being that only those who can afford to pay for health care have access to it. What is health care? Dr. David A. Nash defines health care as the prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well-being through the services offered by the medical and allied health professions. Health care could also be items or services covered under a health insurance plan. In the recent years, there has been an ongoing debate over whether health care is a public good or commodity, but before we answer this questions we must define what a public good and commodity are. A public good, which would fall under the category of a right, is a good that is both non-excludable and non-rivalrous in that individuals cannot be effectively excluded from use and where use by one individual does not reduce availability to another. Public goods include, among other things: safety and security; police and fire departments, national military forces, education and health; water distribution and sewage treatment plants. A commodity, which is considered a privilege, is a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold. For example, grain, precious metals, electricity, oil, beef, orange juice, and natural gas. Health care should not be a commodity but a public good because patients do not have the sufficient information or education to make informed decisions on health care and because healthcare is based on need, not choice.Patients have to trust their health-care providers because they do not always have the information or education to make informed consumer choices. Patients are dependent upon their expertise for a referral and only specialists have the knowledge required to make such choices. Patients have to trust that their doctor will make the best decision on the patient’s behalf. This is because there is a marginal difference between the transactional relationship of an individual purchasing a television from a salesperson and a person requiring intervention by a physician. “Smith’s laissez-faire marketplace of commodities is competitive, where the seller is attempting to sell a product for the largest profit, and the buyer is attempting to purchase the product for the lowest price in order to conserve personal resources”(Nash). Meaning a patient cannot just search up their problem and the procedure to fix said problem, this is because no matter how reliable the internet is, the doctor will always have more real life experience. Levine-Rasky protests that “It’s wrong to burden sick people with these decisions and unreasonable to expect them to do the research necessary to be informed about illness and their treatments”. Most purchasing decisions are made by a doctor acting as the patient’s stand-in. While one can discover a price for one item or service, it is impossible to have any sense of the charges for any significant package of medical services. Since a consumer can always shop around for the best price for a commodity, and this technique does not apply to health care, it proves that health care should be a public good.Not everyone believes health care is a public good, many believe it is a commodity and only those who pay for health care should receive it. Atul Gawande from The New Yorker explains this point of view as, “one person’s right to health care is another person’s burden to pay for it”. The people that believe health care is a commodity justify themselves by saying that since they have worked really hard, they deserve a little more than the person who just sits around. Another example is that they say a public good makes no distinction between the deserving and the undeserving. Some people who have never worked a day in their lives, are living off of Medicaid coverage with no premiums, deductibles, co-pays, or costs at all. And to some, the notion of health care as a public good is undermining the notion of work and responsibility.Health care is a need, not a choice because patients are in the position of need. “If you need medical services to make you well or function normally you cannot shop around for the best deal, nor can you compare makes and models, nor withdraw your consumer choice because the product is overpriced”(Levine-Rasky). If a person needs medical care, they need it now. Patients are at the mercy of the provider and they are unable to influence the competition and costs in a free market model. In fact, the opposite is more likely: the market influences patients to pay whatever cost is set by a private provider. A patient’s got to pay the price no matter what it is. “A seriously ill person has no price sensitivity – care is needed now and many patients will face even bankruptcy to get needed care in spite of looming bills”(Gordon). Meaning patients will do whatever is necessary in order to survive. In conclusion, health care should be a public good/ right opposed to a commodity/ privilege because patients do not have the sufficient information to make informed decisions on health care and because health care is based on need, not choice. Patients must trust their health care providers to make the best decisions on the patient’s behalf. Also, when patients need medical care, they need it now. Patients are willing to do or pay whatever is necessary in order to survive, and they are at the mercy of the specialist and their health care provider to not completely take advantage of this. Health care is not a commodity because commodities are interchangeable, meaning a consumer can shop around for the best deal which, in contrast, this does not apply to health care. In the end, everyone has the right to receive equal care no matter their pre existing circumstances.

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