August 10, 2013 by David K. Sutton
Obamacare: Why Free Market Health Care Is Not The Answer
Just hours after mildly defending Obamacare, which was mostly a rebuke of Republican obsession with Obamacare repeal, I will now tell you why free market health care is not the answer. And yes, Obamcare is a capitalist solution to universal health care. Don’t get me wrong, the Affordable Care Act has great protections and benefits for people — rebates when health care insurers do not spend at least 80% on medical services, no denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, and no more lifetime caps on health care expenditures. And tens of millions more Americans will have a chance to access more affordable health care when health care exchanges start going online next year.
Here’s the problem. We will never cut health care costs enough to cover all Americans as long as we continue to allow profit to rule over access. Conservatives love to talk about the invisible hand of the free market, but health care is not a commodity. Health care is neither a want or a need as defined by market conditions. Health care is certainly a “need” but it’s a need that many times presents itself unannounced. You don’t exactly have a lot of choice as a consumer when you are riding in the back of an ambulance. It is precisely at moments like this when we are the most vulnerable, the most subject to exploitation. There’s no invisible hand here. In this scenario, one side has all the power, and it’s not the patient.
A market can only work when there is a mutual exchange of information between all involved parties. When one party is selling a service, the person buying that service is free to choose another seller. Many times that is not the case when it comes to health care services, especially in emergency situations. This is why health care services must not be considered on the same level as buying a TV or a car. Health care is not a consumer product, it is a vital service we all need at one time or another. It’s not comparable to purchasing an iPad.
So why do we need profit in health care insurance? Take a look at Medicare, profit is not necessary with America’s single-payer health care system for seniors 65 and older. And that system works extremely well, keeps costs down, and typically has 80% or higher approval ratings. So I ask again, why do we need profit in health care insurance? If our goal is affordable health care, why do we tolerate waste in the form of insurance company profits when we already know we can do this without them (Medicare)?