Saturday, June 20, 2009

Health Care is not a Free Market Issue. We Can’t Choose Not to Get Treatment.

The whole premise that health care fits within the idea of free market principals is wrong, and Republicans know it.

In a free market, someone willingly provides a service or a product, for someone willing to buy that product or service with the option of walking away. When you’re sick, can you walk away? Does health care work within the free market concept pushed by Republicans and Libertarians? It appears one party to the health care transaction does not have the option of walking away. According to the late Murray N. Rothbard, a Professor of Economics at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas:

Free Market” is a summary term for an array of exchanges that take place in society. Each exchange is undertaken as a voluntary agreement between two people or between groups of people … These two individuals exchange two economic goods, either tangible commodities or nontangible services. This market is “free” because choices, at each step, are made freely and voluntarily. But exchanges are not necessarily free. Government, in every society, is the only lawful system of coercion. If a robber threatens you with, “Your money or your life,” your payment to him is coerced and not voluntary, and he benefits at your expense.

In applying these principles to health care, how can a victim turn down services? If free markets are “free” from coercion, than how can insurance companies offer extremely high premiums to someone who needs treatment for a preexisting condition? Buy our insurance or go without proper treatment and care? That is coercion, not free market. It’s at this point that free market advocates fall back on government.

The theory of the free market falls flat because it depends on the government. Even the latest health care proposal from the Republicans set up a government pool for high risk individuals, so the “free market” could continue to be profitable. These are devestated individuals the “fee market” turned away. They weren’t profitable customers. It would be fair to say that without the government safety net, the free market ideal fails. The end result, in a free market society with people suffering catastrophic illnesses, is death. Go free market!
At the dailykos, nicweb's diary had this:

The free market is wonderful for things that have alternatives. If you don't like Burger King you can go to McDonalds, if you don't like Wal-Mart you can go to Target, if you don't like apples you can each oranges. But for the things that we would have a hard time living without like water, electricity and health care, the free market sucks. That's why we see so much governmental regulation when it comes to water and electricity. Because when a company like Enron causes rolling
blackouts in the state of California, people could get seriously hurt.

Whenever you put human beings in charge of something, you can expect them to screw it up. That's just the way things are. If there are options, that's fine. I'll just go somewhere else. But if I have cancer, and an insurance company screws me, then I don't have any other options. There is no alternative for me. I'm as much a free-market capitalist as anyone else, but we really need to take health-care out of the hands of the free market.

At, Georgie Anne Geyer wrote this:
"The Nordic nations have interesting news for Anglo-Saxon economic thinkers regarding the nervous relationship between health care and the free market.

Coming on the heels of the marvelous international financial meltdown that we have provided for the world, the message is not only that these countries are the real “free marketeers” today, but also that it’s true because they have such good social programs.

The respected former Swedish finance minister Par Nuder explained these new “truths” in terms of a small story: Nuder was surprised when the workers did not seem abnormally upset when many of their colleagues, fellow workers and even relatives were pinpointed to be let go. Indeed, he was initially bewildered by their apparent acquiescence. You see, the Nordic model, with its universal health care and excellent social benefits, is more competitive because people have enough security to not fear change. And thus, “one of the conclusions of the financial crisis is to invest more in people.” He paused to remark to me, “People think it’s a question of equity versus security -- no, it’s both!”

Their (Nordics) underlying contention is that when working men and women have reasonably secure pension programs, health insurance and educational benefits, they will not fear change as much as we seem to.

But it was far and away the Nordic model -- with countries from Finland to Sweden to Norway to Denmark thriving under a comprehensive Social Democracy that is often made fun of in countries with the Anglo-Saxon free-market model -- that came out on top. (In fact, it was when one member, Iceland, switched over to the extreme Anglo-Saxon model in the last eight years that it, too, fell apart.)

Health care isn’t something we can take or leave. We don’t have options when we start urinating blood. We don’t have the ability to not buy a medical service that can make us well again. It is no longer a part of the free market theory. Starting with the premise that there is a free market solution to health care is a cynical argument from adults who should know better.

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