Unicorns, Fairies, and Market-Based Health Care

News flash, January 4, 2017: Vice-President Elect Mike Pence announces that the Trump administration is working on a “legislative and executive-action agenda to ensure that an orderly and smooth transition to a market-based healthcare reform system is achieved.”

Here’s what “market-based healthcare” looks like:
Been there, and done that. A real “market-based” healthcare system is one in which people with the greatest need for medical attention will be the least likely to get it. It means people will be left on the streets to suffer and die from treatable conditions. It means that if you cannot afford insurance, and cannot pay cash for medical care, you cannot get into an emergency room if you have a life-threatening condition. It means that if you have no money to see a doctor, you have to beg. But if you have to beg, the people you know are probably not the ones who can come up with the cash to help you.

The Republicans are living in a parallel universe populated by unicorns and fairies if they really believe their own rhetoric about a “market-based” healthcare system. We haven’t had one for a long time – thank God. Before Obamacare, about half of all healthcare expenditures in America already came through government programs like Medicare, Medicaid, public employee plans, and the Veterans Administration. Those in the private market fended for themselves in an expensive, bewildering, and inhumane health insurance market, and many were left behind. NerdWallet Health Analysis estimated the number of medical-related bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2013, before Obamacare was fully in effect, at 646,812, vastly worse than in any other industrialized nation. That number is surely going down as a result of millions of people getting insurance, and getting better coverage, under Obamacare. But it will surely rise higher if Obamacare is dismantled.

Civilization and a “market-based healthcare system” are incompatible. Free enterprise and medical care don’t mix. The market works fine for producing and consuming shoes, cars, computers, and many services. But it fails in delivering basic medical care to everyone. Ironically, the nearest thing to a “free market” was created by Obamacare itself, in the form of an online “marketplace” in which consumers could meaningfully “comparison shop” for private health insurance plans for the first time.

What America needs is “an orderly and smooth transition” from Mike Pence claiming to be a Christian to Mike Pence acting like one. Jesus did not offer health care on a “free market” basis. He healed for free, without a market. Jesus’ health care system fails the Republicans’ rigid, irrational, and inhumane ideological standard. Can anyone imagine Jesus the Christ advocating for greatly reducing the number of people in America who have access to health insurance, or reducing the quality of that insurance? Yet every Republican plan for Obamacare “replacement” would have those effects.

So let’s flood Congress with emails and calls demanding “an orderly and smooth transition” to civilization in America – in which everybody has access to decent health care, everybody is adequately insured regardless of their ability to pay, nobody goes bankrupt behind medical bills, and nobody dies sick or crippled on the streets.

Here’s how: Sign The Obamacare Petition

Also, Paul Ryan’s office is conducting a phone poll about the Affordable Care Act.
Call (202) 225-0600 & press 2 – many reports of difficulty
getting through. So try (608) 752-4050 instead, his Wisconsin line. You
can participate in the ACA poll there as well. There’s a full 30 seconds
of dead air when you call — don’t hang up. You also have to sit through a
message about what Ryan has done to try to repeal the ACA, but then you
get to vote in the poll ( and leave a strongly worded voicemail if you’re
so inclined). You’ll hear a recording about the bill to repeal it, then Press 1 to
support continuing the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Website: JIMBURKLO.COM Weblog: MUSINGS Follow me on twitter: @jtburklo
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Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California

Review & Commentary

  • Frank Lesko

    Well said!

  • Newton Finn

    Of course, I agree with all that is said here about market-based healthcare. Of course, our government should provide healthcare to all as a matter of basic human decency. But then, when I went to sign the petition, it was about keeping a market-based health care system in place–perhaps a better one for many Americans, but one with its own set of serious drawbacks for many others. We simply must think bigger and bolder and escape the bounds of lesser evilism that defined the presidential election. I will eagerly sign a petition for universal healthcare, having signed petitions with similar demands on many occasions. But I won’t sign this petition to support the current Romneycare/Obamacare system designed by the very health insurance companies that are literally bleeding us to death.

  • DHFabian

    What would be the logic of providing more than emergency room services to our very poor? Not everyone can work, and there aren’t jobs for all. Deprivation of adequate food and shelter take a very heavy toll on human health.