Whenever I think about the cost of healthcare, I can’t help but going over this in my mind:

  • Suppose there were a vaccine that would guarantee a long and healthy life and a peaceful death.
  • If this vaccine cost $1/person would we, as a society, be willing to pony up the money so that everybody in the country would get it? I’d like to think we would. After all, we’re only talking about a few hundred million dollars.
  • Would the World Health Organization, or some such international body, be able to come up with the $10 billion or so needed to get the vaccine to every man, woman, and child on the planet? Again, I’d like to think so.
  • What if the vaccine, instead of costing $1/person, cost $10/person? $1,000/person? $1,000,000/person?

At the price of $1,000,000 it’s easy to imagine that only the wealthy would be able to get this vaccine. Would that be morally wrong? After all, it wouldn’t be possible to find the money to give the vaccine to everyone; so should it be given to nobody?

We don’t have such a vaccine, and probably never will, but you can ask the same question about any aspect of medical care. Is there a point at which we have to say that not everyone can get the best medical care, because it would break the bank? Are we at that point now?