Healthcare Insurance vs. the Free Market Solution

In the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples a parable:

A Jewish gentleman was traveling from one town to another and was brutally attacked, robbed and left lying bloody on the side of the road. Several other Jews walked by and seeing this poor man lying on the ground moaning, walked on the other side of the road all the while ignoring his pleas for assistance. A man from Samaria came alone, and taking pity rushed to offer aid. While assessing the situation, the Samaritan offered to take him to the next town for care. As part of his screening process, he asked the Jew if he had insurance. Having to bend down just to hear the reply through broken teeth and swollen lips, he was told “I don’t have insurance, my son has a pre-existing condition. We were denied.”  Standing up, dusting off his outer robe, and with great sadness, he said “I’m sorry my good man, I wish I could help you. I would have thought your God treated all Jews the same. I guess not. But if you can’t help yourself, I can’t help you either. Turning on his heel, he strode away, confident in his belief that once again, the dynamics of the free market had prevailed.

Obviously, that is not the true parable. However, if you listened to many conservatives, you would think they would prefer this outcome to what really transpired in the parable.

Examining the Good Samaritan’s actions reveals three very arresting details.

  1. The man interrupted his trip, and expended his time to take the wounded man to an inn.
  2. The Good Samaritan spent his own money to obtain immediate care for the man.
  3. Equally important, he told the innkeeper to continue caring for the man until he was well, and on his honor he would return and pay any additional incurred cost. 

If I were less reverent I would call this the first single payer example. But it’s not. It’s not a parable about American insurance and healthcare, and wasn’t meant to be. What it is, is a parable about the meaning of love. A new definition of neighbor, as well as defining love for that neighbor. Love so deep, you are willing to spend your time,  your funds, and your future funds to provide for someone beside yourself and your family.

I used this an an opening to make a point. It is a rebuttal to the conservative argument that the healthcare insurance market should be legislated by “free market solutions”.  This free market doctrine is disingenuous and a false equivalency. The definition of a free market solution generally means allowing the market to choose their clientele as well as to adjust their pricing to make maximum profit.

As it concerns healthcare insurance, what the conservative’s free market doctrine really means is this:

“I resent families with pre-exisiting health issues presenting me with added cost, and I am unwilling to pay any additional dollars to further that effort. I am adamantly against paying additional taxes in order to partially support their healthcare premiums, no matter how outrageously priced. Furthermore, I am not willing to have my insurance premiums cost adjusted one dollar higher . Even if this means healthcare would become affordable and available to the small percentage of those blessed with pre-existing health issues.

I’m sure this sounds harsh to many of my conservative friends. I’m equally certain it seems quite heretical to a few of my fellow Christian brethren.  And to their shame, some of these conservatives have mocked Jimmy Kimmel. From personal experience, I can say with 100% confidence, Mr. Kimmel didn’t bring up his son casually nor did he take any joy speaking about him. No decent good man wants to use his son as a talking point. Special needs kids are not pawns to be used in order to emotionally manipulate an argument, and I know of no parents who would even entertain such a thought.

ObamaCare was a horrible horrible piece of legislation. Any politician who participated in writing that travesty should be ashamed. However, it did open up an national discussion that was long overdue.

This is the ultimate healthcare conundrum for a civilized gracious and merciful society. Should we be content if healthcare insurance legislation only takes care of most of the people, but not all? Or are we as a people willing to spend our own money, (taxation or higher premiums) to offer assistance to those who face exorbitantly priced premiums. 

Failure to obtain adequate affordable healthcare insurance often puts families on a generational downward trajectory. Often these families are left with no money for decent clothing, education assistance, or college tuition. As a result, children (both special needs and their other siblings) often suffer long-term consequences.  This can result in each future generation starting out behind the eight ball as well. This is simply not the American ethos as we were raised to understand it.

It seems the House will pass new healthcare legislation today. I don’t know if the bill is good or bad. From past experience, I don’t trust Congress to get this right and certainly not now; given their process writing it. Intuitively, $8 billion dollars doesn’t sound adequate, given the fact that each state will once again control insurance rating and premiums. If past history is a guide, state politicians will simply allow health insurance firms the freedom to adjust their premiums to collect those available federal dollars, all the while providing the minimum amount of coverage allowable. This, regardless of how many House Republicans promise differently.

And they still haven’t answered the crucial question.

Will they commit to raising this funding commensurate with the annual percentage insurance premiums increase?

If not, then the downward spiral continues. They are once again trying to deceive their constituents with a single year fix, so they can go home and not be bombarded with this issue during town hall meetings.

Undoubtably, later today and throughout the next few weeks, conservatives will wax eloquent about this legislation being utter doctrinal heresy. Good on em. That is their right. But please understand this, at the center of the opposing argument lies one undeniable truth; it’s their money and the government shouldn’t be allowed to take it to provide assistance to someone else in need. In the end, this is not a sustainable argument in today’s America.

As I said, I am not pro or con for today’s legislation. However, in the healthcare insurance arena, I do find the free market solution doctrine fatally specious. I’m afraid that similar to the ObamaCare disaster 2010 election, the tale of the tape will come in 2020.


About the author

Wm. P. Fitzhenry

5th generation Texan, 2nd generation reformed Presbyterian, a twin and a serial entrepreneur.

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