Opinion

Jared | Privatized ambulances in Kirkland is a good thing

Kirkland has privatized ambulances (Kirkland Reporter, Mark Jung). So I have to pay if I get a stroke and am carted off to the ER in a Kirkland Fire Department vehicle? Yes, $600. This is a user fee, though, and is a good thing. Better than a tax.

And even so, the fee billed only covers one-fourth of the cost. So it’s still a 75 percent city subsidy. The fee, set by the Kirkland City Council, is $600, plus 14 cents per mile.

With a  “user fee,” only those who use a service pay for it, and only for as much as they use it. This is only fair, right? Why should I pay for something if I don’t use it? Taxes, on the other hand, socialize and communalize the consumer pool by making everyone pay equally whether they use the service or not. User fees encourage price awareness, whereas taxes are hidden.

So we should applaud this new Kirkland Fire Department user fee program.

Ambulances really are just a subset of the bigger health-care issue and the basic philosophical and constitutional/legal question of “is there a right to health care?” That is, should government be involved in health care? Should the group as a whole, via taxes, pay for the health care of others?

Well under American law, health care is not a right. “Health care” is not in the federal constitution. So you really don’t have a “right” to a free ambulance. Might seem unfair as young and healthy people don’t need the ER as much. But that’s the theory behind user fees. Those who use, and only those who use, pay. This is why economists prefer user fees to taxes as a way of generating government revenue.

Jeff E. Jared is an attorney and political writer in Kirkland who writes from a libertarian and law-and-economics perspective.

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