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J Med Philos. 2011 Dec;36(6):589-611. doi: 10.1093/jmp/jhr052. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

Just caring: defining a basic benefit package.

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  • 1Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1032, USA.


What should be the content of a package of health care services that we would want to guarantee to all Americans? This question cannot be answered adequately apart from also addressing the issue of fair health care rationing. Consequently, as I argue in this essay, appeal to the language of "basic," "essential," "adequate," "minimally decent," or "medically necessary" for purposes of answering our question is unhelpful. All these notions are too vague to be useful. Cost matters. Effectiveness matters. The clinical circumstances of a patient matters. But what we must ultimately determine is what we mutually agree are the just claims to needed health care of each American in a relatively complex range of clinical circumstances. Answering this question will require a public moral conversation, a fair process of rational democratic deliberation aimed at defining both just claims to needed health care and just limits.

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