My Health, My Decision
I have a layover in Minneapolis, Minnesota for the next hour, and that gives The SuperSpade a chance to see and discuss issues occurring wherever we are.
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has proposed what he calls a “Health Impact Fee” as part of his upcoming budget proposal. The Minneapolis Star Tribune refers this as effectively a “Cigarette Tax.” These sorts of issues raise interesting questions about the rights and roles of government in health-related personal decision making.Even people who smoke acknowledge that there are negative health risks associated with that. Most people who engage in “high health impact” activities will quickly admit this as well. In neither case, however, do the risks outweigh the benefits to these individuals.
The Libertarian in me says that we should let these people live their lives and “penalize” them through things such as a “High Impact” fee. It says you [should] have the right to do what you wish, no matter what it is or who disagrees with it or who is uncomfortable with it. However, this breaks down for me in the case of smoking, which also adversely effects the environment and the health of those in close proximity.
The Uber-Liberal in me says that we should insure and provide a safety net for all, including the Risk-Lovers. It says that we will take care of you no matter what; Universal Health Care covers the crazy and the sane. The case where this breaks down is something like abortion. I am adamantly Pro-Choice, but I do not think the government should pay for the procedure.
The Fiscal Conservative in me says that the “Health Impact Fee” is right on. If I don’t smoke, why should I pay for someone that does? Efficient economics tells us that the market should price things at what they are worth to the consumer (e.g. Northwest Airlines charging everyone [including people like me who actually NEED the leg room] $15 for Exit Row seats. That almost went horribly wrong when we switched planes!!). This approach says that the blanket approaches of Garlin the Libertarian and Garlin the Liberal are so fair that they are unfair. This falls short in the case where I [willingly or unwillingly] engage in “High Health Impact” behavior(s) and cannot afford coverage.
I’m not crazy or the victim of a split-personality disorder. I am, in a word conflicted. I would like your thoughts on the role of government in personal health decisions. Should it enable everything? Should it do nothing? Somewhere in between? Your comments are appreciated.