Press "Enter" to skip to content

Free Market Drives Medicine to Serve Profit, Not Patients

In the Facebook conversation on my post on pro-discrimination Senate Bill 67, my crazy cousin Aaron (not to be confused with my sane wife Erin) maintains that government is a greater threat to liberty than the free market.

If you can think of a more backwards line in political philosophy, let me know.

All human institutions err. But the free market has a really poor track record of providing the basic preconditions of liberty in a civil society, like education, public safety, and, as we see in Thursday's New York Times, health care:

Every day the scorecards went up, where they could be seen by all of the hospital’s emergency room doctors.

Physicians hitting the target to admit at least half of the patients over 65 years old who entered the emergency department were color-coded green. The names of doctors who were close were yellow. Failing physicians were red.

The scorecards, according to one whistle-blower lawsuit, were just one of the many ways that Health Management Associates, a for-profit hospital chain based in Naples, Fla., kept tabs on an internal strategy that regulators and others say was intended to increase admissions, regardless of whether a patient needed hospital care, and pressure the doctors who worked at the hospital [Julie Creswell and Reed Abelson, "Hospital Chain Said to Scheme to Inflate Bills," New York Times, 2014.01.23].

The free market is bringing us corporate control of hospitals, and corporate control brings us managers looking at stock charts, not patient charts. Corporate execs and lucky investors may enjoy more liberty to jet to Bermuda, but patients subjected to unnecessary medical treatments will enjoy less liberty as hospitals driven by the free market take us all for a ride.


  1. Aaron Heidelberger 2014.01.24

    So is that worse then the government putting American citizens with Japanese heritage into interment camps in 1942 or wiping out the Native Americans in this country? Government did that not the free market.

  2. Cranky Old Dude 2014.01.24

    So it was Walmart who killed those 85 million Kulaks, Ukrainans, Russians, Georgians and Chinese last century?

    And who enables the Evil Old Free Market to to do so many of the things it does? Government.

    In the free market you have to make a profit and to do that you have to keep at least some of the customers coming back. Government has no bottom line other than Government. If you think Government gives a damn about you then I have some shiny rocks I'd like to sell you!

  3. Jerry 2014.01.24

    I guess we can expect you to be sending your social security monies back to that uncaring government then cranky old dude. I am sure they will trade you for some shiny rocks and maybe even some beads.

    When you drink your government protected water and breathe your government protected air, government protected medications and government protected means of travel (think of that one while at the airport). Just say NO. Stop doing that and move the Beijing as then you will see how an uncaring government takes care of you. I would suggest ordering a nice cut of meat there, good luck.

  4. Stan Gibilisco 2014.01.24

    The free market works well in some cases, and not in others. Health care is one of those others.

  5. Jerry 2014.01.24

    The free market is about to include health care Stan. What it will do is to post what procedures will cost up front. The consumers will then be able to decide if they want that pesky gall bladder to go bye bye at xyz clinic for 8,500.00 or go to the clinic on the corner for one that would cost 2 grand. That is about as transparent as pricing can get for services rendered.

  6. Roger Cornelius 2014.01.24

    Isn't this like biting the hand that feeds you?

    Today's version of free markets and capitalism are so skewered that real definition of both seem to be disappearing. There was a time when making a profit selling goods and services was the American way. That is disappearing.

    Now we have large corporations and their lobbyist buying politicians so they are nearly tax exempt, they fight continually for special privilege to exclude them from a government regulations that are meant to serve the consumer. These corporations are less concerned about consumer protections and more concerned about getting the government to help increase their bottom line.

    When large corporations and oil companies have more money than the government, guess who has the power.

    We all the know the adage, "Money is Power".

  7. Cranky Old Dude 2014.01.24

    Nobody asked me if I wanted to be part of SS. They just told me 'You will..." and took my money. Now I 'm taking it back.

    None of us actually have much experience of a free market-we haven't had one for at least 100 years (since that halfwit Wilson gave control of the economy to the banking cartel). Some say it died when Roosevelt broke up Standard Oil and others go all the way back to 1851 when Congress shut down Lysander Spooner's private enterprise post office operation. I'll bet he would have shut his doors long before he was losing Billions every year!

    What do you suppose healthcare would cost if the Government hadn't devalued our currency so much?

  8. mike from iowa 2014.01.24

    C.O.D.-probably alot less than dumb bass dubya's wars for the hell of it,but in any case,the money will be spent in America to help boost our economy,before the koch bros pull the profits off-shore so they don't have to pay their fair share of taxes.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.25

    John, my wife forwards me a column from a doctor who advocates Medicare E, the McGovern plan, on the basis of the idea that health care is a public good:

    "If we as a society decide, like all of the other industrialized countries, that health care is a public good – like defense, police and fire protection – and infrastructure such as highways, then it should be funded like our other public goods through taxes. Since we are already paying twice as much for health care as other countries, and since a single system of payment will lower the overall cost by reducing administrative expenses and eliminating the need to pay shareholders, it seems like this option should be given serious consideration.

    "The simplest way to achieve this would be to expand Medicare to cover everyone. The system is already in place and has shown that it can pay for services with an overhead of about 5 percent, as opposed to 20 percent-plus for the insurance industry" [Daniel Schaffer, M.D., "Single-Payer System the Best Option for Health Care," Spokesman-Review, 2014.01.18].

    Perhaps calling health care a "public good" is the same thing as calling it a "right." Might "public good" be a more palatable term?

  10. Jerry 2014.01.25

    You make a very valid point Cranky Old Dude when you stated "Nobody asked me if I wanted to be part of SS. They just told me 'You will..." and took my money. Now I 'm taking it back."

    Tell you what, after you figure how much you have paid in that was "taken from you". Stop taking anymore. Call that mean ole Social Security and demand that they remove you from the "moocher list". The rest of us, who actually believe in what government does for the people, do not want to see you embarrassed by your taking what does not belong to you. What your kind always fails to see is that you take much more than you have given and then you whine about it not being enough or that it will end. Then we go off to see the wizard along the rabbit trails of devalued currency and the like. It is amusing to me that your kind always blames everyone and everything else for your shortcomings. Funny stuff. Here is a flash for you, without the government and without the social programs that we have, courtesy of a Democratic president, you would be at the mercy of the powers that be. You know, the ones who could care if you have health coverage or if you even survive. I know that is difficult for you and others to even comprehend, but that is why there are history books. Check out life here prior to the presidency of FDR and then you will see.

  11. Curt Jopling 2014.01.25

    Now that the banks got the biggest government bailout ever you can stop talking about the "free market".

Comments are closed.