The Democrats' Dilemma: Choice between Loving Healthcare and Hating Trade

Bhagwati, Jagdish N.; Madan, Sandip

Healthcare reform has acquired salience in the forthcoming Presidential election, with anxiety over wages and jobs making the economy a leading issue. Yet, while the Democratic contenders, Senators Clinton and Obama, offer alternative comprehensive plans, they both leave important gaps regarding two key questions. The first concerns the availability of doctors to meet the needs of the newly-insured, a problem that Governor Mitt Romney ran into when he introduced comprehensive medical coverage in Massachusetts. The second concerns the fiscal cost of comprehensive coverage, a problem that killed (in January 2008) yet another Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ambitious attempt at healthcare reform in California. To address these questions effectively, both the candidates can ill afford to ignore exploiting the potential offered by international transactions in medical services. But to do this, they will need to abandon the Democratic Party’s growing antipathy to an embrace of openness: loving healthcare and hating trade are incompatible positions.


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August 20, 2009


"We Need Free Trade in Health Care," Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2008.