COVID-19

Is health care a “private good” or a “public good” during a pandemic?

David Brancaccio and Daniel Shin Mar 13, 2020
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A sign directing visitors to the fever clinic is pictured at the entrance to the Gold Coast University Hospital in Australia. Patrick Hamilton/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Is health care a “private good” or a “public good” during a pandemic?

David Brancaccio and Daniel Shin Mar 13, 2020
A sign directing visitors to the fever clinic is pictured at the entrance to the Gold Coast University Hospital in Australia. Patrick Hamilton/AFP via Getty Images
Share Now on:
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This is part of our “Econ Extra Credit” project, where we read an introductory economics textbook provided by the nonprofit Core Econ together with our listeners.


Most health insurance plans and services in the United States can be considered “private goods,” something that a person has to themselves and is not available to another individual.

But the outbreak of COVID-19 has prompted many experts to point out that health insurance and preventative care are really “public goods,” resources that everyone uses and shares for everyone else’s benefit.

“Coronavirus is definitely a reminder that health care is, in fact, a public good,” said Dan Mendelson, founder of healthcare advisory consultancy Avalere Health. “We all have a vested interest in making sure that everybody around us is seeking appropriate medical care at the right time.”

For Mendelson, the key issue is making sure sick people seek early and appropriate care at the right time.

“We have a lot of places, people who are in emergency rooms, taking up space in emergency rooms when if they had sought treatment earlier, their conditions could be managed a lot less expensively, and in a way that that had a better outcome for not only the patient but people around them,” Mendelson said.

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview.

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