Market-Driven Healthcare Is Market-Sanctioned Death

Defenders of the healthcare status quo seem terribly concerned that enabling access to preventative care will result in an orgy of medical spending on the part of an innately selfish consumer base.

One Moscow Vision 2020 community forum pundit likened it to the louse who orders the most expensive item on the menu once she knows the other person is taking care of the check. I, of course, think the bad behavior exhibited in the healthcare economy we have now makes that analogy overly simple.

I’m being generous.

The idea that medical consumers — we call them “people” — would engage in a determined recklessness in using “other people’s money” in the form of government healthcare-access programs is a convenient way to defend continuing injustice. I think we’ve all seen a multitude of examples of “people making bad decisions” in the healthcare climate we endure these days in the U.S. Most of the time, those decisions are made by insurers, whose approach to market-driven, business-model healthcare counts every single cost except for the very real personal costs inflicted on sick people.

I don’t see the truth in the example that using “other people’s money” in healthcare distribution is like you and me going to a restaurant and my ordering not the lobster I would’ve if I’d known you were paying and, lacking that knowledge, ordering only the soup-and-sandwich combo. Possibly engendering bad manners in social interactions is not the same thing as denying people access to preventative care that not only spends healthcare dollars wisely in prevention and early diagnosis, with better treatment outcomes, but also empowers people to manage their own personal health. People who seem to believe that the indignation I might feel that someone “orders up” if I’m paying is at all analogous to their having access to and making use of comprehensive preventative, diagnostic, and treatment options that by every standard improves the life — and life expectancy — of the patient are simply dead wrong. It isn’t.

I cannot imagine a scenario under which people “pig out” by availing themselves of “other people’s money” — which, given the tax-supported nature of government involvement in healthcare is actually THEIR own money — to pay for their scooping up each and every test possible. Those who say so surely are aware that most diagnostic tests are ordered by doctors themselves, not by patients. In other words, while I might call and schedule my own mammogram (at my doctor’s recommendation), I can’t just wake up one morning and decide that an MRI would be a fun way to pass the day.

No, those tests are ordered by physicians. I suspect the defenders of healthcare as a business model haven’t had the experience of having their doctor suggest an MRI to pinpoint the source of acute pain, or a complete blood panel to rule out leukemia, only to have to tell her/him that they can’t afford it — either because they’re uninsured, or because they carry a $10,000 family deductible and can’t come up with their share of the cost. Further, it’s hard for me to imagine that the unequivocal defenders of the market actually envision a world in which “too much” medical care is a bad thing, unless, of course, they’re in the camp that believes that Grandma really ought to have to have her case reviewed by managers disinclined to spend money on an 80-year-old.

If you’re at all “pro-life,” you can’t defend that, unless your allegiance is only secondarily to the giver of Life and primarily to the market. Which I believe is often the case with “Christian Libertarians” and others who worship at the altar of free enterprise, even when it’s the fodder of sin, violence, and death.

Finally, I think that the Libertarians and I would measure the moral strength of a country in different ways. They seem to think that the market-driven, frankly discriminatory stinginess now evident in the way this nation deals with healthcare is not only a good business model, but an honorable way to have its citizens deal with each other — and not as equals or as co-citizens, but in a hierarchical model that ensures that those in power, those who are not doctors, those who control the pursestrings and thus make life-and-death decisions that result in death, not life, are entitled to inflict a business

I disagree. The measure of this nation’s moral character is when the gap between the have’s and the have-not’s, while evident in other areas, should never result in the acceptability of early death and prolonged suffering because it makes business sense to people whose healthcare needs are immune to the “silent hand of the market.” That, I’d never apologize for. I’m just amazed that so many others would defend it, as if the sin of committing idolatry is excusable only if the focus of that adulation is the free market — allowed by God, yes, but never permissable as an adjunct focus of devotion. And until Christians put the market in its place — which, as would seem evident, is necessarily below that of God as well as those created in His image — more and more people will die because care wasn’t available to them.

If there’s “market success” in that, it serves only to damn the ammoral hand that guides it, not commend it.

Leave a Reply