We regularly hear that government needs to intervene in the market to ensure that all people have “access” to health care. But what does “access” mean? Is there some epidemic of oversized hockey goalies standing outside hospitals, blocking people from getting into the ER? Have I just missed the news that hospital walkways are booby trapped and that you can only sneak through the door if you have your own invisibility cloak?
On a free market, everyone has the same “access” to a hospital as they have to a movie theater or restaurant: they can walk in and buy what they are willing and able to pay for.
The people lamenting the lack of health care “access” don’t like that. They don’t like the fact that a person has to pay for medical care, and so rather than say, “You are entitled to have other people pay for your health care,” they use misleading language to imply that a person’s having to pay for medical services is equivalent to having someone interfere with his freedom to buy care.
There is no problem of “access” to health care. The problem today is that health care is heavily controlled and regulated: we don’t have the freedom to pursue medical care on a free market. As a result health care is more expensive, more bureaucratic, and less available than it would be if government stopped trying to promote “access.”