At the Colorado Health Insurance Insider, we’ve made it clear that we believe access to health care is a basic right, not a privilege. A lot of people don’t agree, and see health care as just another enterprise in our free market system. (although the “free market” in the health care industry is a bit more complicated than it might seem at first glance). But does the power wielded by doctors instill them with an inescapable obligation to humanity? Read this powerful article from Duncan Cross and draw your own conclusions.
There are lots of professions that can ethically operate on a strictly capitalistic, free market basis. If you’re selling luxury cars or designer jeans or free range chicken eggs, you can set your price based on demand, and raise or lower it as you see fit. If people want and can afford your product, they will buy it. If not, they won’t. If they deem your product too expensive, and don’t buy it, they will generally carry on with life relatively unscathed. And if you choose to price your product so that only a portion of the market can afford it, that is your prerogative. But in health care, I would argue that the rules are different. If you choose to be in the health care industry (a group that includes health insurance companies, medical supply companies, and pharmaceutical companies, as well as actual health care providers), you’ve chosen a profession that is governed by a stronger code of ethics than a typical supply and demand free market scenario.
People need health care. We may not need cars or computers or down comforters, but in order to live, we need to be able to ward off and recover from disease, and seek treatment (without fear of bankruptcy) when injuries or illnesses present themselves. I am a strong believer in personal responsibility with regard to health. By exercising daily, avoiding processed food, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, etc., we can have a significant impact on our own health. But even the most healthy among us could still get hit by a bus or be diagnosed with cancer. And we need to feel secure that there is a functioning health care industry ready to help us put the pieces back together, should the need arise… regardless of our financial status or position in the rest of the free market system in which we live.
Many thanks to Jeffrey from Monash Medical Student for hosting this week’s Grand Rounds, where I found the article from Duncan Cross.