Being the only thing taught in public schools since the Red Scare, most of you probably know of and think highly of a “Free Market.” This blanket assumption has many, many flaws and worse, we’re trying to apply markets where they don’t fit.
Market assumptions are simple. Supply of a good is tracked against the demand for that good and where they intersect is the price. Ignoring for a moment this ignores cost, depletion or waste (as so many do) how does this apply to health care?
A market needs two things: something of value (sometimes tactile) and consumers with choice. Whenever a market is artificially added to a sector without these things, disaster (exploitation, Enron) ensues.
Health care is one of these sectors. Consumers (used generally to label the 98% not able to buy specialist care out of boredom) don’t have choice. They’re sitting across from their doctor and being told their options. If they need an MRI they don’t check the going rate in China or on NewEgg, for instance.
Insurance, medical practitioners, pharmaceuticals and many others are all under the blanket label of Health Care and it’s also something everyone needs. This not only depletes consumers’ choices further but confuses any market assumptions.
Applying a market to a natural monopoly (built, in this case, on high cost, low access and government assistance) never works. When the idea hit the electricity sector manipulation, artificial scarcity, high profits, unreliable supply and scandal were the natural results.
Health care in this country boils down to two things. On one side, you’re for single payer reform and believe health care is a right. On the other, you want to paint a market over a monopoly and see health care as a privilege (though few will admit that).
On whichever side you fall, take a look at Frontline‘s look at six democratic countries with state-backed health care. Ask yourself, why can’t we have a system like Taiwan? Or Switzerland? Or the best parts of both?
In both cases they’re trying to force a market into a sector it doesn’t belong but it’s working for the people, not the companies.
Photo courtesy: SFGate.com