Conservatives Are Wrong About Free Market Health Care

I’m going to keep this short and simple so that everyone gets it. The Health Care system is NOT and CANNOT be a free market system.

Some ‘conservatives’ (read, pro-oligarchy folk) have tried to redefine the term ‘free market’ to mean only one that doesn’t involve “government interference.” I can’t blame them, I guess, everyone wants to make their position sound as good and as reasonable as possible.

It’s false, however.

A free market isn’t just a market lacking government regulation. Here is the ACTUAL definition: A “free market” is a market in which sellers, under no undue pressure to sell, proffer their goods/services to buyers who are under no compulsion to buy. This is critical; change any element of this formula and you are no longer talking about free market.

Health care is not (and cannot become) a free market for two reasons:
1) Supply is artificially restricted by the government and the AMA. The scarcity of medical care drives up the cost. This is completely artificial. You might say “Well, they have to! You can’t have just anyone practicing medicine!” Fine, I agree, but that means that health care CANNOT EVER be a free market, because of the artificial restriction of supply.
2) Not only is supply artificially low, but buyers are under EXTREME compulsion to buy. What, that thought never occurred to you!?!? If you need lifesaving medical care, you either get it or you die! End of story.

No free market exists in health care. And you just agreed in item one that you cannot turn it into a free market.

You could change item 1 by stripping the AMA of its ability to tell medical schools how many doctors they can graduate every year AND letting anyone sell medical services who wants to do so. So then you could choose between the really expensive guy who went to medical school and Joe the Plumber who sells antibiotics out of the back of his truck. This would take care of half the problem.

BUT, you can’t do anything about item 2: People will still need lifesaving care and as long as it is a LIFE OR DEATH NEED, the medical health care system will NEVER follow free market rules.

Sometimes people say, “yeah but we need food, too! And you don’t want the government regulating that.” Food has multiple sources and you can even grow your own, so supply isn’t artificially limited as it is with healthcare. And even so, the government does, in fact, regulate prices through farm subsidies and other methods. We have a cheap food policy in the USA. Some people think that’s bad. Whatever, we need an affordable healthcare policy and it needs to be effective in balancing the artificial (but necessary) limitation on supply.

No free market in healthcare and the people who say they want a free market really don’t (they still want limited doctors, limited medicines, etc.) so what we have is a monopolistic utility, [“monopolistic” because the government & AMA tell you who can provide the services and a “utility” because consumers NEED and are compelled to buy the services from only a few government-approved providers]. As with all monopolistic utilities consumers have no choice except to pay whatever price is demanded.

Now in most other utilities, government as the representatives of the people recognizes the unfair power that the supplier has over the consumer and acts to tightly regulate pricing. For medicine, those with an agenda having NOTHING to do with anyone’s best interest are still trying to pretend that there is some kind of free market solution.

It’s bullshit. When you figure out a way we can all buy medicine from our local supermarket in the same way we buy potato chips AND you figure out a system where people are NEVER compelled to seek medical care to LIVE – THEN and only then will you have free market healthcare.

The rest is all pure phony bullshit spewed by people who only care about profit-taking for the super rich and don’t give a shit about the average person. It’s a fact, and I just proved it!

Some probably-paid talk show callers have been claiming expertise and saying that the problem with health care is that people get too much of it. =The solution, these ersatz listeners claim, is to get rid of medicare and all government price controls and let the “free market” decide. Yes, that’s right, people are dying every day for lack of health care – and America is the ONLY industrialized nation where that happens – and the conservative “solution” is to make health care even more expensive so that you stupid consumers won’t use it as much!!!

Look, those of you who are driven by ideology need to understand that free market rules are a bit like the laws of thermodynamics: Yes, they work – but they apply only in a vacuum, under ideal conditions that seldom exist in real life. You need to blow off the ideology and start looking at reality. We’ll all be better off if you do.

12 thoughts on “Conservatives Are Wrong About Free Market Health Care

  1. Morris Zwick

    This is all fine, but…

    We are still left with the problem of “no free lunch”. If we use your analogy of a regulated utility, the utility provides services at an agreed to rate that incorporates the costs (raw materials, working capital and long-term capital) plus an agreed to profit margin. You as the consumer are then free to buy as much power as you want at the rate specified. Generally people have some incentive to save money since, even though the rates are regulated, they still have to pay for what they use.

    So, how does the analogy hold up in health care? Is there a service cost involved by the “event” (prescription, doctor’s visit, lab work, hospital, etc.)? Does one pay a set fee for any service available? In the first scenario, a person could ration what they use if they cannot afford the cost, but that does not seem smart when your health is involved. In the second scenario, the consumer has no incentive to economize – no matter how much I use I pay the same amount.

    The solution that ultimately seems to occur in the second scenario is that the government essentially acts as a utility commission for the consumer, evaluating for them what can be done based on age, diagnosis, etc. A less elegant term for this would be rationing.

    So, while I am in agreement with your premise that healthcare is not a complete free market (and there are very few of those anyway using your definition), we are still left with the “no free lunch” problem. The only two solutions are either raising rates or rationing service.

    Frankly I am skeptical that any particular ideology has developed an approach that will work. It seems to me that this is an issue that requires a focused study of the problem by all stakeholders over a reasonable period of time to try to develop the best compromise solution (and any solution will be a compromise). But the politics of the situation seems to be that something needs to be passed soon or it will never happen.

    Ah well, that’s politics.

    Nobody said anything about a free lunch. Let’s not get sidetracked with silly slogans and talking points. The utility analogy holds fine and I don’t want to belabor the point because it’s boring. In case you weren’t aware, however, your water and electric company charge a fee just for your connection. The water company fee includes 0 to x number of gallons per month and you only pay more if you go over that. If you don’t use it at all, you still pay. And yes, some people do need healthcare services daily to live. Some need it occasionally. Someday, YOU will need it to live. God help you if you are an American and don’t have a fat bank account!

    You are incorrect in one assumption; that there are only two alternatives, because there is a third way. You are forgetting that American healthcare is far and away the most expensive and among the least effective in the world. We SUCK at healthcare, but we pay a lot for it. In other western democracies, people pay a lot less and get much better healthcare – and they ALL get it. So you can have better care, universal care, for a lot less money – IF you do away with for-profit healthcare. That’s the third way.

    What we have is a system that is broken; it is a system that allows thousands of people to die every year from treatable conditions – people who would have LIVED if they had been born in some other industrialized nation. But because they are Americans, they die. And that may be just fine with you but I think it’s a disgrace. In case you haven’t noticed, American healthcare is HEAVILY rationed, your access is dictated by the size of your bank account.

    Oh, back to the “plans” ..whatever they are: In most countries you have a monthly fee (like Medicare) and some kind of co-pay. It’s just like private insurance, except everyone is covered and there are no “pre-existing” conditions. Right now, private insurance bureaucrats decide what healthcare, if any, you will get – and their decisions are based totally on maximizing company profits. That’s a piss poor system and as I have already noted, it’s one that kills a lot of people.

  2. fleckman

    Sorry Cranky guy ur article falls apart from the beginning.

    “A free market isn’t just a market lacking government regulation”.

    This is a false and misleading assumption promoted by the left to paint the picture that conservatives are for no regulation. I’ll challenge anyone to show me with factual verifiable information that conservatives are for no regulation. Can’t be done.

    Next – You make the perfect case for why there should never be socialized medicine, govt controlled healthcare, a govt run public option etc.,;

    “Supply is artificially restricted by the government and the AMA”

    So if that’s the case then why would we ever have a govt run system?

    I can go down every paragraph and show you how factually incorrect your statements are but I wont. The above 2 items I’ve cited say it all and are the foundation for your false assumptions.

    Let’s try next time to make a valid argument with factual information and not political agenda.

    If you haven’t read the free market argument, I can’t help you. You haven’t been paying enough attention for me to even attempt to communicate with you on this subject. Try reading. For the record, however, I didn’t say any particular conservative openly advocates zero regulation, only that this is part of what constitutes a free, unencumbered market. Conservatives (some anyway) like to play word games with this. As I also said, free markets really don’t exist too often outside of theoretical economics. Libertarians advocate for zero regulation, while conservatives conveniently claim that deregulation is the answer to every problem. It amounts to the same thing. On the one hand, some non-libertarian conservatives want to hide behind “Hey I didn’t say I advocated for zero regulation!” when everything goes to shit because of deregulation. On the other hand, when things ARE shit (like the American healthcare system, their one and only answer is “less regulation.” You can try to split red cunt hairs all you want, it amounts to the same thing. I’m not going to discuss this further as it is an idiotic sideshow.

    At the very least, you are EXTREMELY CARELESS in your reading, so that you fail to grasp the information. OR, alternatively, you simply have a predetermined belief which you wish to protect so you filter information to prevent questioning your own compassionless social Darwinism. So you just want to use this forum to beat the drums for your disgusting, anti-human beliefs and you don’t really care about reality or people. This is tiresome as I have little patience with ignorance, whether accidental or intentional.

    ONCE AGAIN AND FOR THE LAST TIME: Healthcare, as I pointed out, cannot be a free market. You want doctors who are licensed to practice medicine, so there is no free market. Don’t you??? When you have an artificially limited supply (which you must have in this case) then that supply must be paired with price controls or you get the horrific situation we have now: The most expensive healthcare system in the world that is simultaneously among the worst for outcomes. For God’s sake man, even fucking CUBA has a better healthcare system by the numbers. Jesus H. Christ.

    The fact is, the government DOES run healthcare – in the form of licensure and certification. It just doesn’t run it for the benefit of the consumer. That needs to change. But hey, thanks for admitting you’re a heartless bastard and you don’t care how many thousands of people die every year in America for lack of healthcare – care they would have gotten if they’d just been born in some other industrialized nation. Prick.

  3. Ab Irato Post author

    BTW, to the person who asked about the source of my definition of free market.

    I was paraphrasing from a business class. In ancient times, I was a Certified Real Estate Appraiser and an understanding of market forces is critical to appraisal. In particular, you need to to know if the market is encumbered by restrictions of supply or other artifices that could affect value.

    You should be able to find what you’re looking for in any college economics textbook but for a quickie try Wikipedia:

    “In a free market, property rights are voluntarily exchanged at a price arranged solely by the mutual consent of sellers and buyers. By definition, buyers and sellers do not coerce each other, in the sense that they obtain each other’s property without the use of physical force, threat of physical force, or fraud, nor is the coerced by a third party (such as by government via transfer payments) [1] and they engage in trade simply because they both consent and believe that it is a good enough choice. In addition, in a free market, force is not used to prevent competition among buyers or among sellers (called free competition). Therefore, force is not a determinant of price, but rather price is the effect of buying and selling decisions en masse as described by the law of supply and demand…”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_market

  4. Ab Irato Post author

    OH and another btw… snide baiting comments will NOT be posted. This is not a democracy; this is a forum for regular people with real life interests and REAL fucking issues, not a political platform for Libertards and freepers. There are a million sites for that elitist crap. On the other hand, If you have a legitimate point you’d like to make and you can make it in a respectful manner, then our comment will be approved and addressed. . However, you need to have real solutions not just talking points.

    On the other hand, if you don’t like what I write and you just want to bluster and parrot your freeper/Free Enterprise Institute/Libertard elitist talking points then you can – in the words of Dick Cheney – go fuck yourself.

    This is a critical dividing point: If you don’t really care about human beings, if you want to ignore all the people that the American healthcare system kills every year, start by admitting that up front. Any talking point that doesn’t address how to save all those people is not legitimate in my opinion, because you don’t care about people. HOWEVER, if you are a social Darwinist then this is what you REALLY mean when you are bloviating against universal healthcare. At least have the balls to say what you are! I hate cowards. Of course, this also means that you aren’t a decent human being and there is no reason for me to talk to you. Go fuck yourself.

    If you are something OTHER than those things, then we can have a civil discussion. But again, you better have answers and not just complaints.

  5. Steve

    The argument on our side is that more people are helped by bringing the entire system up to a higher standard. How many people in the world would be “dying every day” without all the drugs and procedures that were developed because of a desire for profit? I believe it is many many. BTW, I receive no wealth or income whatsoever in any way from anything health care related. I DO care about people. A lot. Our argument is how to deliver the most and best healthcare for the most people. You are engaging in mostly ad hominem attacks.

    The first sentence is probably the best argument you could possibly make and I respect that. It has its problems and refutations but I won’t give you a hard time about it. I’m just glad to see something that isn’t the the same old crap parroted over and over again. Thanks!

    I will only add that nobody makes drug companies sell drugs everywhere else in the world for 5 or 10 percent of the price they get here. It is a basic principle of capitalism that sellers charge the maximum price the market will bear; not the lowest price at which they can still make money and not a ‘fair’ price – but the maximum price the market will allow. And if that maximum price is below cost, they don’t sell.

    We can be confident, therefore, that drug companies still make money at the lower European/Canadian/Australian/Japan/etc price. Just not as much. Aww, poor things. Clearly profits are more important than human lives! Well, we know it’s true….

    And even there, I can’t blame the CEOs or the boards of directors; it’s their job to make as much money as they can. The problem is that the government has the job of protecting the ordinary citizens from predatory practices that hurt them – and the government hasn’t been doing its job.

    As the CEO has a job of maximizing profits, laws are supposed to prevent him/her from doing so to the detriment of the country. We have laws that control monopolies and monopolistic practices for this reason. It’s called balance and fairness. For the same reason, we don’t allow the police to go around gunning down anyone they suspect of being a troublemaker even though they might knock out a few criminals that way. We the people, through our representative government, RESTRAIN power to protect the general public. Or that’s the way it is SUPPOSED to work.

    Here we have something that conservatives and especially libertarians often forget: A powerful corporation can be every bit as oppressive as any government. If you think having crappy government leaders is bad even though we elected them, imagine having your life controlled by an unelected corporation only interested in maximizing its own profits (which is what we have right now in American healthcare). Most politicians are HORRIBLE and suck, yes, but at least they have to fear being voted out of office.

    The healthcare industry lobbyists don’t fear you or me and they don’t give a shit if either of us live or die. They DO fear government regulation cutting into their profits, however, and that is as it should be.

    Now back to the healthcare system: By the numbers, the USA healthcare system is not the best – not by a long shot. It’s just the most expensive. The reason for that has nothing to do with research and development (much of which is paid for by we the taxpayers, btw) and everything to do with a market that has a built in artificial scarcity combined with pressure for the buyers to buy even at artificially inflated prices, and no real protections for the general public.

    As for ad hominem attacks… Yep, this is a blog not an academic paper! I hate people who have that “I got mine and everyone else can go die cuz I don’t give a shit” attitude – and I say so. If it were up to those people, most of us would still be serfs living under a feudal Lord.

    I’m also very sure I’m right in what I’m saying. There are a million other blogs that have other things to say. I am always honest about that.

    I think it all comes down to whether one thinks the human race (or the American ‘race’ if you want to be jingoistic about it) has intrinsic value or not. If you do, then you will agree that people need the maximum chance to pursue their own happiness, whatever that may be. To do that, everyone needs at least a shot at a good PUBLIC education and they need lifesaving healthcare. That’s the minimum, as far as I’m concerned. If you don’t have those things, you don’t have a country that cares about its people, you just have a country that is for the few, the rich, the privileged. – Irato

  6. Ab Irato Sucks

    Just saw Sicko for the first time asshole? Cuba has better Healthcare? Then go move there cocksucker!!

    Actually, I’ve never seen the movie Sicko and I really don’t care about it. I’m only interested in facts and figures not dramatic presentations.

    On that note, unbiased NUMBERS show that in fact the American healthcare system ranks 37th in the world, slightly behind Cuba and some other third world countries. Statistical analysis like this show us what kind of care people ACTUALLY get – as opposed to what is theoretically available (but not really there when they need it).

    America is great if you are rich. You can buy anything you want. Note Michael Jackson. You can buy all kinds of things you don’t need at ten times the price the rest of the world pays. If you think that’s something to be proud of, you aren’t very smart.

    On the other side of the coin, if you are poor or working or middle class but unable to get health insurance you would be better off being a citizen of some other country 99 percent of the time. It doesn’t mean I’d want to live in those other countries for any OTHER reason. But when it comes to healthcare delivery, America sucks ass and that is a proven fact.

    You think just because some rich senator gets on TV and says that “America has the finest healthcare system in the world” that it must be true? Get real.Yes, HE actually DOES have the finest healthcare in the world – and WE pay for it! He doesn’t give a shit about the rest of us – those who are paying for his great medical coverage.

    REALITY CHECK: America doesn’t have ANY healthcare *system* – NONE – and we are the only industrialized nation that doesn’t have one. Instead, we have a healthcare *industry*. The difference is that a system is designed and intended to provide necessary services to anyone who needs them; an industry is designed to maximize profits by charging as much as possible for as few services as possible.

    BTW, I only posted this comment to remind people what kind of idiots are out there working against the interest of the majority of Americans. He’s very typical: Ignorant and aggressively proud of his ignorance. Remember this guy next time you go to vote. – Irato

  7. Pingback: Another blog take on US Health Care at The Cranky Media Guy

  8. Jacob

    Liberal are wrong about government health care. There. Now seriously, anyone who is really (yes, really) is favor of a free market cannot possibly be pro-oligarchy. Big business hates the idea of a free market. They couldn’t possibly survive in one. But anyway, no, conservatives have not redefined free market to mean without government interference (most are actually pro-gov when it comes to big business, but that’s another story). That’s what the definition always was (read about it). Moving on, the idea that buying medical services is compulsory is just silly. It isn’t, and the funny thing is you use this idea to justify a compulsory, monopolistic system. Confusion.

    You can be pro-oligarchy without realizing it, of course. Yes, of course big business hates the idea of a free market. And? You understand, then, that in the absence of government regulation, the biggest businesses with sufficient leverage eliminate competition and control the market. So you want to eliminate government regulation in order to have a free market, yet by your own admission you’ll have an illusion of a “free market” for about a microsecond before everything is controlled by a handful of super corporations. This is an excellent argument FOR government regulation, although I’m fairly sure that is not the argument you intended to make.
    You are incorrect on the other point, too. Sorry. A free market is often defined today as one that is not regulated by government and this definition has slowly seeped even into some textbooks, but that is an ideological definition not an economic one. From a standpoint of economics a market is ALSO not free if supply is artificially limited (one of several encumbrances other than government regulation), which is the wet dream of big business of course. You also missed the part about how free market ideals are theoretical models that work in a vacuum: In the real world, free markets seldom exist and that has less to do with government than with natural human greed. Refer to the argument with which you began this comment as an example.

  9. Jacob

    Okay, here some reading http://www.reason.com/news/show/34816.html
    http://www.reason.com/news/show/135127.html. Say yes to free market insurance. “Private” insurance is only really private to extent that government is not running it. Anyway, just my views, don’t need to be upset about it. “Libertards”, “social Darwinists”, right. That’s me.) Seriously though, neither liberal policies nor conservatives policies really work. The idea of using government to “protect” us from big business is silly. They are natural allies. Hopefully I don’t get banned, I really want a genuine discussion here. But your strong ant-libertarian bias is noted. *sighs*. No serious libertarian just wants people to die without health care. Quite the opposite, if you’d actually read more about it. Oh, well. Can’t dictate what you believe.

    I’m very familiar with libertarianism, Jacob. I quote from Reason from time to time whenever they have something interesting to say. As far as libertarianism in general, I’ve always found it to be a very attractive although naive ideology. It’s sweet and I wish the world worked that way. However, it does not.

    Separating the good ideas of libertarianism from the ideological trash of objectivism would take more than a comment reply or even a post; it would be a least a book. So we’re not going to do that here. I will simply say that for most of human history the masses of humanity (like you and me) were slaves to the rich and powerful. The king was the richest and most powerful guy of all. Civil democratic government was created for the purpose of freeing us from being enslaved by the rich. American government has been hijacked from that purpose, it is true, but it has been hijacked by the same super rich who then tell you that government is evil so you’ll work to destroy it. Then serfdom can return and we’ll all be “free” of government. Hurray…. or something.

    Libertarians can have good ideas. I’m pretty sure that the libertarian movement has been hijacked by the same super-rich big business people that have hijacked government, however. Has the fact that libertarian think tanks are funded by billionaires and giant corporations never given you a moment to pause and reconsider?

    If one could separate the idea of having the government basically stay out of our lives from the ideological extension that government needs to stay out of corporation’s lives, too (corporations are a legal fiction – they are not people, no matter what free marketers have told you) then you’d have something. But I see that it isn’t working that way: Typical of human overreaching, libertarians take an idea that is good in one arena and try to apply it to everything, guaranteeing disaster. I suspect this is part of that corporate-funding, poisoning the well. But I will agree that they have good ideas on personal freedom.

  10. Adam

    “Libertarians can have good ideas. I’m pretty sure that the libertarian movement has been hijacked by the same super-rich big business people that have hijacked government, however. Has the fact that libertarian think tanks are funded by billionaires and giant corporations never given you a moment to pause and reconsider?”

    You are incorrect. The Ludwig von Mises Institute is one of the largest libertarian think tanks I can think of. They specifically say this on their FAQ page….

    “How are you funded?

    We are funded by the private donations of individuals, businesses, and foundations. We accept no government funds (yes, the funds have been offered) and we tend to be eschewed by large foundations and corporations (we accept no contract work). However, these strictures place a rather severe limit on our resources and growth potential.”

    I’m not going to waste too much time on the Kool-Aiders because it’s boring and they never address the horrors of libertarianism itself, just try to nitpick points where they think they can score something. The beauty of a private think tank is that they don’t have to tell you where their money comes from. They can say nothing. They can lie. There’s nothing anyone can do about that.

    This statement is bullshit intended for consumption by the true believers and nothing more. How do I know? Because some people actually brag about their funding of these think tanks, that’s why. Just because the libertarians are ashamed of their whoring for the corporations and the super rich doesn’t mean the people who fund them are ashamed.

    Libertarians want you to think they are for the average Joe. More accurately, they are for the average David and the average Charles… Koch that is; billionaire funders and FOUNDERS of Libertarian think tanks (Cato institute was founded by Charles Koch, the 8th richest man in America according to Forbes, and his uber rich buddy Edward Crane) – when they talk about a lot of their money coming from “individuals” these would be the individuals they are talking about. In fact, when you look at admitted funders of these think tanks, not one of them is less than a multi-milionaire and most are billionaires. You can look at some sources here: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Reason_Foundation just as one example.

    One can understand why these shills for the corporations and the super-rich would want to characterize themselves as grass roots – there aren’t enough votes available from just the super-rich; to sway voters they have to pretend to be on the side of regular people – but the fact is they they advocate for polices that help ONLY the most elite and richest citizens while harming average Americans. And that is something they can’t hide.

  11. Steve B.

    Mr. Ab Irato,
    I stumbled onto your site looking for ammunition for a debate I was having on facebook with, of course, one of those cocky, smug libertarians. Wow, you are the terminator extaordinaire, my friend! Just want to let you know how refreshing it is to me to see someone out there who can shut these people down with such in your face raw common sense and indisputible fact. Needless to say, after “borrowing” some of your stuff, the libturd didn’t want to talk to me anymore. I guess he wrote me off as hopeless. You are my new hero, keep it going. On another matter, I do have to admit that Uncle Bob needs to look at the “theory” of evolution as another religion. There is definitely no fact or common sense to back that fairy tale up. Precluding any sort of organized religion, one can say without being labeled a moron, that there is a designer and that things don’t magically organize independently of themselves without some sort of “outside” influence. Evolutionists manufacture “fact” like libertarians do. Most people accept it without really researching it. It’s one of the biggest farces ever perpetuated on our human race. Thanx for providing this forum. Steve B.

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