Sunday, October 31, 2004

Free-market flu?

This Washington Post column claims that "The reason there's not enough flu vaccine to go around this year is that Americans have decided, consciously or not, that they don't want the government to get too deeply involved in health care." The rest of the article, however, could just as easily be used to argue that the shortage is the result of too much governmental involvement:
  • Changing flu vaccine production to faster, more modern techniques (like those used for other vaccines) would require lengthy and expensive FDA approval.
  • The government buys about 20% of the vaccine supply for military and other uses, but it refuses to pay market prices
In fact, the solution proposed at the end of the article includes a significant move towards a freer market (the government would pay market prices for its 20%). The free market can break down in a variety of ways when it comes to health care (the New Yorker has a good analysis of market forces and prescription drugs), but this year's flu vaccine doesn't look like one of them.


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