Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jumping into the health care debate

A couple of thoughts on a free-market health care system. Free-market health care advocates warn about rationed health care if we have a single payer or government option, yet we currently have rationed health care for people with pre-existing conditions or living just above the Medicare line. Free-market advocates say competition is the best way to manage escalating costs. Perhaps. Perhaps that works when you need to get your car fixed, but when is the last time you compared the cost of a strep throat culture? I know it costs me $14.95, $19.95, and $29.95 to get my oil changed at Fleet Farm, Jiffy Lube, and Mike's In and Out, respectively. I can make my choice of where I want to do my business based on that, and of course the quality of service I receive. It's a free market. That isn't the case for health care. Bottom line, if we're going to claim that competition is the best fix, then make it truly competitive.

Nearly 35 years ago, my younger sister Barbie died of leukemia. She was 8 at the time. Despite the number of years that have passed I can vividly recall the pain she experienced. Sometimes it was so great in her legs that she would crawl from place to place rather than walk. During the 4 years she struggled against the disease she was in the hospital probably more than she was out. There were complications, kidney stones, broken bones, all kinds of things. To this day, I'm not sure how my parents held things together. However, there was one thing that helped a great deal. Our family doctor refused to charge for any of his services related to Barb's treatment. Can you imagine that? Not a penny and he was at our house more than you can imagine.

The other day Mike Huckabee was ranting about how if he a member of his family had a brain tumor he'd want the best physician money could buy, that he wanted his doctor to make lots of money. The flaw in that rant is we assume that "the best" is always the most compensated. I'd argue that isn't often the case. There are thousands of doctors, lawyers, pastors, teachers, social workers, and nurses that labor in inner city and rural areas that don't make a lot of money. They work there because there is a need and because they recognize that their work is for the common good. The concept that a oncologist in Edina can make a million dollars a year is better than one working in Pierre making $200,000 is just plain B.S. And if it isn't B.S. then what we're saying is the lives of people in Edina are more valuable than those people living in Pierre.

Rather than working to maximize profits for a health care industry we need to be maximizing compassion for the common good. Rather than following a free-market model, I think we need to model our system after a small-town doctor from Winneconne, Wisconsin.


1 comment:

jeanne leigh said...

Wow, that's powerful. Thanks for sharing this story about your sister and that wonderful doctor. I agree. Beautifully said. Thanks