LESSONS FROM NETFLIX AND QWIKSTER: You can get a sweet deal if you are the customer who gets marginal cost pricing. Medicare does this-reimburses hospitals at above their marginal cost, but below their average cost, so that private insurers have to pick up most of the hospital overhead. European countries do this with prescription drugs: reimburse above the marginal cost of producing the pills, but below the total cost of developing the pills, so that the US has to pick up most of the tab for drug development. The problem is that as voters and as customers, we often get the notion that this can be extrapolated to everyone. So liberal policy wonks want to save money by putting everyone on Medicare, or some equivalent program that uses the government's monopsony pricing power to get lower prices for everyone; thrifty customers think that everyone should drop cable and just pay $14.95 for streaming plus DVDs. But everyone cannot be the marginal cost consumer. Someone has to cover things like development costs. Indeed.
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