are based on the cost of public or private health insurance. The range of estimated benefits from the incremental coverage ($1,645 to $3,280) is higher than the range of estimated incremental service costs ($1,004 to $1,866) and, for most values within each range, results in a benefit-cost ratio of at least one.
Finally, the Committee reflected on several other benefits that our national community and local communities within the United States might gain if health insurance coverage were extended throughout the population. Economic goods that can be valued in monetary terms are not the only kinds of goods that we value having. Providing certain important goods like health care to all members of society has its own value (Walzer, 1983; Coate, 1995). In addressing normative questions, the Committee has attempted to start from values that are widely endorsed throughout American society, such as equality of opportunity, and then to make judgments about whether public policy and economic practices in health care accord with a reasonable characterization of those values. The Committee does not attempt to make a freestanding argument about objective morality but rather claims that collective actions can express or achieve existing social norms and ideals.
Because health care relieves pain and suffering and enhances our ability to function and achieve over the course of a lifetime, making sure that everyone in society has adequate access to this good is a matter of fairness and social decency (Daniels, 1985; Sen, 1993). A commitment to equal opportunity obligates us as a society to ensure that all Americans have sufficient access to health care such that they are not disadvantaged in pursuing the career and other opportunities offered by American society.
Health insurance contributes essentially to obtaining the kind and quality of health care that can express the equality and dignity of every person. Despite the absence of an explicit Constitutional or statutory right to health care (beyond access to emergency care in hospitals, required by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act), disparities in access to and the quality of health care of the kind that prevail between insured and uninsured Americans contravene widely accepted, democratic cultural and political norms of equal consideration and equal opportunity. The increasing effectiveness of medical interventions in improving health and survival (Cutler and Richardson, 1997; Murphy and Topel, 1999; Heidenreich and McClellan, 2003) make considerations of equity in access to effective care through health insurance more urgent.
Uninsurance in America not only has hidden costs, it represents lost opportunities to more fully realize important social and political ideals that account for our nation’s political stability and vitality (Dionne, 1998; NASI, 1999). Extending the social benefit of health insurance would help us make our implicit and explicit democratic political commitments of equal opportunity and mutual concern and respect more meaningful and concrete.