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
HTML EMBED:
COPY

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.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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