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Am J Law Med. 1992;18(1-2):1-13.

Symbols, rationality, and justice: rationing health care.

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  • 1Hastings Center, Briarcliff Manor, New York.


Proposals to ration health care in the United States meet a number of objections, symbolic and literal. Nonetheless, an acceptance of the idea of rationing is a necessary first step toward universal health insurance. It must be understood that universal health care requires an acceptance of rationing, and that such an acceptance must precede enactment of a program, if it is to be economically sound and politically feasible. Commentators have argued that reform of the health care system should come before any effort to ration. On the contrary, rationing and reform cannot be separated. The former is the key to the latter, just as rationing is the key to universal health insurance.

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