Richard Thaler on a public option and health care

In his latest Economic View column, Richard Thaler argues that the debate over what a public option for means for the future of health care in America has gotten way out of hand.

We clearly don’t need any more distractions from the two main issues of health care reform: how to deal with our large uninsured population and how to make the entire system more cost effective. So, for now, let’s ignore the shouted rhetoric about whether “death panels” want to kill off Grandma or whether President Obama wants to turn the country into a socialist state.

But even if we discard these absurdities, and tune out the raucous scenes at town-hall meetings, one big distraction remains: the question of whether a “public option” should be part of the health care solution. To me, the issue is a red herring, and is getting in the way of genuine reform.

Continue reading here.


  • Herb Schaffner

    We need more investigation of the co-op proposal–there’s good aspects in it for the major groups on both side. Francis Gouillart makes an interesting case in his blog The Co-Creation Effect:

  • Bry Hayes

    Hitler nudged people in the direction he thought best. He nudged them right into the gas chamber if they didn’t agree with the thought process. Have we become completely stupid !

  • Jerry Phelps

    Thaler conveniently left out the issue of profit – a public option will not have to make a profit, thus will save money. Also, overnight mail is a specialty service. I use the post office all the time to send mail and packages. The post office doesn’t just cherry pick the services it provides, it is a full service organization. Similar to what a public medical system will provide. It wont’ cherry pick the patients it serves and the coverage it provides, it will provide coverage to anyone. Also, left out of the article was the issue that the VA medical system has the highest customer satisfaction of any healthcare system. Then there is police, fire, ambulance, sanitation, etc… all running more efficiently than any privatized system. I find it amusing that a behavioral economist would want to limit choice to for-profit only healthcare, while ignoring the VA Medical system. Obviously Thaler is blinded by his own conservative ideology.