There’s No ‘Free Market’ Solution to Health Care

By Geoff Coventry | ( | – –

A fully privatized system can never adequately provision the nation.

The Republicans have big plans for health care in this country: to eliminate coverage for millions of Americans while delivering a big tax cut to the rich.

As someone who stands to benefit from that tax cut, let me just say: I don’t need it, and I don’t want it. No tax cut is worth excluding millions of Americans from the health services they need.

Any new health care legislation should be focused on providing the best available health services for all Americans, not deliberately putting them out of reach. And yet, this is exactly what the twin monstrosities that came out of the House and Senate would have done.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the House bill would’ve left 23 million Americans uncovered by 2026. The Senate version was only a shade better, leaving 22 million people out. Those bills were nonstarters with the public — the party was forced to pull them, along with any immediate plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

This Republican-majority Congress has shown their cards: They favor less coverage for workers and the elderly and lower taxes for the wealthy.

Republicans in both chambers claim they’re doing this to support “freedom” and “choice” for the American people. They say the “free market” is the only way to provide Americans with access to affordable health care. They claim deregulation will help drive down health costs.

Well, for starters, so-called “free markets” are unicorns — fanciful creatures with magical powers that don’t exist in the real world. All markets are designed; they don’t emerge spontaneously from nature. We form, structure, regulate, and enforce markets through policy and institutions which reflect private and public interests.

When it comes to health care, we’re talking about something closer to a “natural monopoly” like electricity, not an industry like autos or breakfast cereals. Everyone needs basic medical services on a regular basis, and we need to make sure the same quality is available to everyone — even in hard to reach or low-income areas.

This will always require some form of direct government funding of services, especially with respect to primary care. Failing to do so means we’re not serious about the goal of quality care for all Americans.

This doesn’t necessarily mean an entirely government-run system — there’s plenty of room for private medical practices and businesses to provide the spectrum of services we need. But it does mean some degree of public funding is essential.

A fully privatized system can never adequately provision the nation. Rural communities don’t have adequate medical facilities and staff. Underdeveloped urban communities suffer from the same lack of basic resources, and their residents often don’t have the ability or time to travel to other locations.

Republican leaders claim they want affordable access to quality health care for all Americans, but all of their proposals have focused on lowering taxes on businesses and the rich, regardless of the very real cost in terms of human life.

It’s a false choice, and the effects will be cruel.

A healthy nation is a prosperous nation. This is primarily a challenge of real resources and the distribution of those resources, not of money. Congress can and should authorize any necessary funding to achieve the stated public goal simply by appropriating the funds.

This includes designing a system that will ensure there are enough facilities, doctors, nurses, specialists, transportation systems, and all the other elements of quality care in close proximity to all who need it — at any level of need and ability to pay.

Members of the House and Senate were put there by the voters and have an obligation to fight for and protect all of their constituents, not just the ones wealthy enough to bankroll their campaigns.

Geoff Coventry is a member of the Patriotic Millionaires and a founder and principal of Tradewind Energy, Inc. He runs the blog, “It’s The People’s Money.”



Related video added by Juan Cole:

CNN: “Trump urges GOP to support health care repeal”

6 Responses

  1. We KNOW, to a very high degree of accuracy, exactly how much of each type of health procedure and medicines we need to provide to the 300+ million Americas. No matter how we slice and dice the American population into meaningless groups we still KNOW what these groups will need.

    We can NOT change this reality of demand very much and “free markets” can NEVER do anything to change this demand. People will continue to get cancer on a random basis. People will continue to have accidents on a random basis. People will continue to have heart events on a random basis. Since we have eliminated most basic research and preventive care we can not lower the demand.

    The demand is pretty much fixed by nature so all we can do is manage the supply to minimize the total cost to society and eliminate as much greed as possible.

    There is a very good reason why every other nation on earth pays less than HALF what the USA does and why over 30 other nations have BETTER healthcare. They have eliminated as much greed as possible with STRICT government management of healthcare.

    Healthcare is a monopoly.

    I live in a Midwest metro area of about half a million and we have ONLY three major healthcare providers, but they all work together and often share resources. These three have no business reason to undercut each other on prices and decrease their profits, unless the government TELLS them what they will earn.

    Virtually every other city and town in America is the same or worse.

    Elko Nevada has a single hospital and a single doctor owned clinic. The nearest other major hospital is 300 miles away in Reno or Salt Lake city, which is where critical cases are flown to. In addition to the usual stuff (heart incidents and cancer), the hospital sees a lot of auto accidents from people traveling on I-80, none of which is planned but based on statistics, the hospital KNOWS they will have steady business that is only slightly modified by the weather. Since most of the car accidents are not locals, they charge the maximum they can to patch people up so the locals with no health insurance, pay a little less. basically they are cost shifting.

    Even large cities have defacto monopolies because the distance from one major healthcare center to the next is far enough that most people can not either get the transportation or tolerate the time to travel.

    The bottom line is, the USA will have to go to single payer eventually (like every other nation on earth), because the “free market” healthcare system will collapse because it is economically extremely inefficient. We just keep shifting costs around rather than forcing the cost to a minimum through severe government control.

    When single payer tells the service providers what they can earn, costs will go down, but not before then.

    All we are arguing about right now is who will pay for the healthcare we MUST provide, and who will die due to poor healthcare.

    Healthcare really is a case of . . .

    “Society pays now or pays even more later,” because the DEMAND for healthcare can NOT be managed, only how much we pay.

    Americans are such fools – the solution is easy but greed and jealousy is strong in Americans.

    BTW – Epipens sell in the USA for US$600+, but the EXACT SAME epipen sells for LESS THAN US$100 pretty much everywhere else on earth and is often less then US$50. This is because the governments tell the drug companies what they will sell stuff for if they don’t want their patents voided and local companies given the ability to make the products. This is why AIDS drugs are so inexpensive in parts of Africa. The governments threw out the USA/EU drug companies, ignored their patents and let Asian drug companies set up manufacturing plants in the African countries where the Asian companies make a nice profit without paying the original patent holders.

    The rest of the world knows how to get good to excellent healthcare for low cost.

    • By now, the rank & file supporters of right-wing inequality know they have to pretend that markets will deliver affordable health care to the poor. And the rest of us refuse to consider the possibility that said supporters want exactly the opposite. They want the poor deprived of health care, unless those poor come crawling to right-wing megachurches (White-run, of course) which have the resources to bail their followers out of a few catastrophic crises. I know this, because the hardliners are considerably more honest in admitting that the poor should not have the right to vote and that they should pay greater taxes than the rich. No one pays attention to this sadism-as-identity.

  2. Republican Free Market Healthcare is a method to enable a “Culling” of our most vulnerable citizens.

    • It’s probably less a culling than a subjugation. The idea being that in the superior past, the poor paid for their sin of being bad at making money by trading away their human rights to some Patriarch to increase his power to enforce God’s will. Having some of our family members have medical problems will increase the pressure on us to submit.

      Meaning, in my suspicion, they have no problem with Mexicans, etc., existing among them as long as they’re clearly marked as having no rights and existing only to serve “real” Americans. That will be the price of healthcare from their churches. That’s the plan for all of us who are different than them. Eventually we troublemakers will die off, and our children will be broken and molded into a eternal servile race, keeping the worthless Master Race in hog heaven.

  3. Article is good corrective to myth of free market. It is always an issue of degree. Rs have managed to sell a lot of this neo-liberal fluff to people, but most of those purveying it do not believe it themselves. It is propaganda. Ideology promulgated for expediency, designed to occlude unkindness, as what policy maker would state explicitly that he/she is about harming people. They sin more than by omission, but by commission as well.

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