The Naiveté Of Advocating A Free Market Health Care System

In case you didn’t notice, the current health care system in the United States is already a free market system. There are winners and losers. There are some people who can afford to participate and others who get left behind. This is how any market works, and this is how our current health care system (which isn’t really a system at all) is working, or should I say, is not working.

The fact that the current health care system is already a free market solution doesn’t deter the free market advocates (typically right leaning conservatives) from saying that they want a free market solution to fix health care in the United States. But how exactly does a free market fix health care? If you are concerned about the 50 million Americans who do not have health care insurance, then advocating a free market solution would be the furthest thing from your mind. If you truly are a free market advocate then you must know the free market does not have a conscience. The free market does not feel empathy when the powers of the market result in a rationing of care where the “haves” get care and the “have nots” get left behind.

A good example of this naiveté is the following exchange on today’s episode of Up with Chris Hayes where guest Elise Jordan said she wants a free market solution for health care:

Chris Hayes: That’s the whole point of universal social insurance, is that you don’t have a choice to opt-in and that the way that the risk pooling works is that it mandates people…into the program. That’s what spreads the risk.

Elise Jordan: But I think what’s wrong with this…I have many reasons…I have many problems with the health care bill, but they tried to satisfy too many parties, and so they made insurers happy, they made pharmaceutical companies happy, and they didn’t achieve real reform. Because what bothers me about the health care debate…

Chris Hayes: Now your sounding like a Lefty.

Elise Jordan: …is transparency. But transparency…why do Americans not know what a service is going to cost when they go to the hospital or a doctor’s office?

Michelle Goldberg: But do you think that’s the fault of health care reform, as opposed to the fault of the current medical sys…?

Elise Jordan: No, I think that they should have done…I think that they should have done more to require…what industry do you have just blind expectation of going in, getting a service and there’s no standard…standard billing? And that really hurts the uninsured because they pay three to four times more when they go to the emergency room…they do end up getting billed.

Chris Hayes: You do sound like a Lefty now, that’s absolutely true about the uninsured. Uninsured because they don’t have bulk negotiated rates. You’re totally right about the current…you are describing perfectly the status quo.

Elise Jordan: I want a free…I want a free market solution.

Sam Seder: There is no…there is no free market solution to the problem you are talking about. That is a function of the free market.

I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to pick on Elise Jordan. I think she is coming from the right place when you listen to most of what she had to say. The problem is that free market ideology gets in the way of solving a serious issue. The problems that she so clearly outlined cannot be fixed by a free market system driven by corporate profits. The medical outcomes of patients and the lack of insurance for millions cannot be remedied by an insurance system where the main motivating factor is profits.

This week we will learn the fate of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The Supreme Court is set to announce its ruling, specifically on the individual mandate, but if they rule that portion of the bill unconstitutional it is possible they may strike down the entire act. I think the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, but if it is struck down by the Supreme Court it will be a major blow to solving our health system problems and it will be a big win for the free market advocates, and will allow the status quo of corporate profits controlling our health care system to continue, likely for decades to come, and the number of uninsured Americans will most certainly continue to rise.


photo by seiuhealthcare775nw

Health CareHuman RightsThe 'Free' Market

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