Prescription for reform

-The debate over health care reform resists easy answers. And Associate Professor of Philosophy Stephen Mathis offers another tough question for the public, government officials and the health care industry to chew on.

Why should health care be a for-profit industry anyway?

Professor Mathis poses the issue in the Sunday edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in an essay published in the newspaper’s oped section.

A scholar of social and political philosophy, the professor points out that, so far, most of the health care debate has revolved around the question of whether the U.S. health care system should include a public option. Or, to put it in more loaded terms, should we shun any and all forms of “socialized medicine?”

In his essay, the professor says that some aspects of the health care system are not part of the marketplace.

First, we tend to think it inappropriate to profit from others’ misfortunes, whether they are illnesses or accidents. This also helps explains why our police and fire departments are all either government-funded or volunteer. So when it comes to protecting lives or saving them, we disapprove of those who profit from others’ misfortunes because they take advantage of others when they are most vulnerable.

The answer to whether health care should be a profit-driven business is neither easy nor obvious, Mathis writes. But the question needs to be asked, he argues, and the answer will say a lot about our values and the commitments that we are willing to make as a society.