"I believe that free-market principles will solve our health-care problems"

Monday, May 11, 2009
This is a direct quote from former Columbia/HCA CEO Rick Scott. He's a multi-millionaire attorney who is spearheading an effort to oppose the administration's health-care reform initiatives. His group is called "Conservatives for Patient's Rights," and they're running television ads implying that the U.S. adopting the British or Canadian health care system will result in poor access, shoddy care and more expense.

There's a number of problems with Mr. Scott's position, starting with the fact that his "advocacy" group is made up of people who are concerned that their "for profit" health care businesses will lose some of their profitability as a result of new health-care policy. While I'm an advocate of people making money, I tend to believe that health care is an essential public service. It's very difficult to reconcile profit margins and providing primary care to all who need it, so I think from a public policy perspective, Mr. Scott and his associates have a pretty big conflict of interest. Mr. Scott has a history of "making a fortune by destroying quality in the health-care system and ripping off the government," as evidenced by the $1.7 billion in fines his company was forced to pay for over billing state and federal agencies for health care services.

The second issue here is that Mr. Scott and his organization are implying that the Obama administration is proposing a single-payer system, which is what the U.K. and Canada use. In fact, the single-payer model has pretty much been taken off the table, and the ads insinuating that the problems associated with a single-payer system are misleading at best.

But I think my biggest issue with Mr. Scott is the quote "I believe that free-market principles will solve our health-care problems." Really, Mr. Scott? Well, let me tell you what I believe. I believe that you have a tenuous grasp of reality. Isn't the system we've always had a "free-market" system? How exactly is the system we've always had going to solve our health-care problems? Since you can afford health care and the current system will continue to line you and your associates' pockets, it seems like maintaining the status quo solves your problems. But for the millions of Americans who don't have primary care? Not so much.

I believe that providing primary health-care services is a moral obligation of society. Clearly Mr. Scott doesn't agree with that, and his policy recommendations reflect that. He's entitled to that opinion, and he's entitled to publicize his opinion in order to maintain the status quo.

But for me, letting people go without treatment because they're a member of the working poor instead of being lucky enough to have a job with health benefits simply isn't acceptable. I believe Mr. Scott's position is unethical, and apparently reflects his values. Unfortunately for him, the reflection is less than flattering.

16 comments:

Steve Buchheit said...

"I believe that free-market principles will solve our health-care problems"

Thanks, Mr. Scott. We've tried that for the past 16 years now. Hasn't worked out so well for most of us. Now it time to try another plan. You had your chances. So in the parlance of the internets, "kthanxbie".

Oh, wait, one more thing Mr. Scott, there's some word that has the definition that reads that you "keep trying the same thing expecting different outcomes." Tagged. You're it.

vince said...

Yeah - the free market on this has worked so well that millions upon millions of people have no health care because they can't afford it.

Jim Wright said...

God, I love Republicans - they're just so fucking amusing.

You know the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and expecting different results. Oh, wait, Steve already said that didn't he? Well, he's right.

Republican bitch about tax and spend democrats, but never seem to realize that they're credit and spend republicans. They talk about capitalism ad nauseum, but call for governmental bailouts of their buddies in industry when those industries go tits up from repeatedly poor decision making. They fear socialism so bad that it makes them piss their pants, but they drive on the public roads, and drink from the public water supply, and benefit from federal programs to ensure the safety of their food supply and medicines and everything else and they sure have no problem taking unemployment insurance and social security checks and those economic stimulus payments.

But universal medical coverage? Well, that's just downright unAmerican. Poor people should just die, apparently.


Stupid ignorant hypocrites. Every last one. I tell you every time I hear about increasing the taxes on the rich I start to think that's maybe an unfair burden - then I read about rich idiots like Scott, and think, you know this selfish bastard ought to be doing a hell of a lot more.

Janiece Murphy said...

Jim, I'm with you. I don't really have a dog in this fight - I've always had health care available to me and my family. I've been extraordinarily lucky in that respect.

It's also to my financial detriment to support universal health care. But since I believe that poor people shouldn't "just die," I'm willing to accept the greater good as being the right course of action here. It is a burden - but it's not an unfair one.

Jim Wright said...

Well, frankly I don't see it as any more of a burden than paying for the roads, or TSA, or the FDA, or the military, or the schools or and etc.

I don't see how universal health care is any different than any of those things.

Janiece Murphy said...

Jim, I don't think I was clear, because I don't see the difference, either.

What I meant was that because the SmartMan and I pay significantly higher taxes than the working poor, including health care in the same "essential services" bucket as roads, FDA, etc. will increase my tax burden. But I'm willing to pay, and I don't think that my burden is "higher" than a poor family's is "unfair."

John the Scientist said...

"Well, frankly I don't see it as any more of a burden than paying for the roads, or TSA, or the FDA, or the military, or the schools or and etc.

I don't see how universal health care is any different than any of those things."

Because of the scale. It will be staggering. A whole lotta thoughts on this are distilling, I'll have a post in a few days.

Janiece Murphy said...

John, the fact that the scale is larger is actually an argument for universal health care, at least in my mind.

Because if the cost of doing it is "staggering," then what's the moral cost of not doing it?

Kate said...

Okay -- Devil's Advocate here. Please don't bring out the mallet of "Kick Kate's Ass".

One of the reasons why the US has the best advances in care, for the people who can afford it, is because of our greedy Capitalist society.

The monetary awards for creating the next drug or surgical procedure are what drives this current situation.

I think that a lot of Republicans see socializing the health care system as an end to the drive to create.

The scary thing is, they may have a point.

What pharma, med-device or insurance companies for that matter are going to want to exist without their bucket loads of money each time a rich person or even a person on welfare or social security gets sick?

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but Republican's are scared because they see that without the large private bankrolls going to support the health-care industry, the system will fall apart or fall behind.

The days for advancing research for the small reward of saving lives or helping humanity are over. The majority of companies out there are in it for the green stuff.

There is also fear that the number of graduating Doctors and Nurses will further decline due to non-competitive salaries. Who is going to want to work at a hospital that manages a strict budget to adhere to governmental guidelines?

Without monumental financial gain, as we've seen in this current and very broken system, there will be no major motivation to be associated with the health-care system in any way.

I don't know how to solve this, but I can see the logical brainwaves of both sides, here.

Anne C. said...

The main problem I see with having a free-market driven health-care system is that it provides a service/product that is NEEDED rather than wanted. It allows for extremely predatory practices because those who need it most are those who cannot afford preventative care (hence the term "preventative"). So, the ones who need it most are the ones who can afford it the least.

Think of it like affordable housing (another liberal idea, I suppose). There are laws protecting people from slumlords for the same reason as what I've noted above. Those in desperate need are most vulnerable to predators...

Hmmm... I have always thought of the free-market as being the sociological version of survival of the fittest. I think it carries through in this case as well. A health-care system that is free market is naturally going to weed out the weak and infirm - or in this case, the poor and infirm. Rich and infirm is good to go.

Janiece Murphy said...

There is no "mallet of "Kick Kate's Ass"." it was banned by The Internet Authorities.

Kate, I understand what you're saying, and I'm not trying to imply that it's not a good point. You get the behavior you pay for, and there is a real danger that innovation will wither somewhat under a not-for-profit health care system.

The issue here really is that while socialized health-care may solve the problem of the uninsured, it may cause a problem in innovation and employment. So you give up innovation in return for universal coverage. It still doesn't justify the comment that free-market principles will solve our problems - it won't. But its death may cause a different set of issues.

What's the answer? I really wish I knew. Some of sort of compromise will have to be reached, because what I do know is that telling the uninsured that they're well and truly fucked under our current system isn't acceptable policy to me.

Anne, the rich and infirm are what's driving the system...

Random Michelle K said...

BWAH! I didn't need my head to explode today!

Kate, here is one solution for you: All large employers are required to provide health care for all their employees. Products that are imported from companies that do not provide a minimal level of health care for their employees will be taxed, and that tax will go directly to paying for a universal health care plan.

This universal plan pays for basic preventive care and hospitalization (Akin to Medicare). This is a very basic plan with limited benefits, so individuals will want to work for companies that provide insurance or purchase their own supplemental health insurance.

Yes, this *is* a two tiered system, but it's a hell of a lot better than what we have right now.

Additionally, as I have said time and time again, we are already paying those costs. We are paying those costs through increased hospital rates across the board (as hospitals pass on the cost of unpaid care to everyone else), and those costs are passed on not just to individuals but also to insurance companies.

And then there are the costs to society in lost productivity, as well as the unconsidered cost of contagious individuals not getting treatment and spreading their illness to those who are healthy and insured.

And there should be cost reductions built into the system for those who take care of themselves: discounts for non-smokers, for gym membership, for maintiaing a healthy BMI or blood pressure or cholesterol level, for regular well child visits and so on and so forth.

We need an approach that punishes companies that refuse to provide adequate health care (I'm looking at YOU wal mart) and rewards individuals who make healthy life choices.

There is a lot we can do--and should do. Because as Janiece said, this is not just a financial imperative, it is also an ethical and moral imperative.

Anne C. said...

"Anne, the rich and infirm are what's driving the system..."

Technically, I would say it's the middle class and the infirm that are driving the system. (Sure, they spend less, but there are a heck of a lot more of them.)

I'm not saying one way's better than another (survival of the fittest has worked really well for some for a long time). I just wish that people acknowledged not only the financial cost of having a system, but the social/moral cost of not having a system.

Wendy said...

Well, right about now I'd just about settle for ANY kind of health care, have not had anything regular since September 30, 2001.

Medical services have been limited to 3 emergency clinic (doc-in-a-box) visits, annual eye exam to renew prescription, and massive emergency dental surgery two years ago (had to borrow the money).

Local clinic services for unemployed/low income patients, um, health system in question is scarier than anything I could come down with, AND has been in financial trouble for years.

I'm working for a small business, and we're actively seeking health care for the company, there's two of us that need it. The cost ain't pretty and neither of us can afford to do it on our own.

So I'm hoping I hold up until something breaks, I just hope it isn't me!

WendyB_09

Janiece Murphy said...

The UCF Trollops, solving the problems of the world.

I think we all agree that the ethical cost of the status quo is way too high. The rub is coming up with the best possible answer. Note I didn't say the "best answer." There is no such thing.

kimby said...

Or..the Trollups could all move up here to Canada...Where it doesn't cost you to go see a Doctor...but you have to find one first! (Doctor shortage is UNREAL!)