This is the second of a two-part post on Jesus and healthcare (to read the first part, follow this link). As always, I invite reader questions and comments.
Thus, from the perspective of economics, my reader posed the wrong question. The question is not whether one chooses a healthcare system characterized by capitalism and free markets but what constitutes the preferred form of socialism:
- What resources (hospital beds, emergency rooms, ambulances, etc.) and how many of them does a community need?
- How can society minimize administrative overhead?
- What parts, if any, of a healthcare system lend themselves to free markets, i.e., is a hybrid system possible?
- One possibility might be the choice of a primary care provider, especially if structural barriers to entry were reduced (cut the cost of medical school, encourage unlimited competition between medical schools, etc.) and non-physician providers (physician assistants, nurse practitioners, midwives, etc.) could easily and legally provide routine care.
- Another possibility is to nationalize all healthcare research (including on drugs), eliminate patents on all healthcare devices and drugs, and then promote competition between manufacturers. Taxpayers would fund the research, eliminating the outsize profits that private industry demands for engaging in admittedly high-risk research that often has an uncertain payoff.
- Another possibility might be to segment healthcare, socializing most of it but creating free markets for optional procedures such as most cosmetic procedures.
Of course, funding represents a major obstacle to moving from the cherished illusion of free markets to an openly socialized healthcare system. However, the change should cut the total cost of healthcare in the US, which is now the highest in the world and generally produces mediocre results, even though it occasionally produces exceptional results. The people who would reap financial gains from the change would include most taxpayers; among persons and companies who might lose are shareholders and employees in the nations for profit healthcare companies (hospitals, insurers, physician groups, etc.).
All of which brings me back to Jesus. The most important reason to change the US healthcare industry is Jesus' concern for the most vulnerable and least among us, i.e., the uninsured and underinsured, people who postpone seeking care because they cannot afford it and don't like charity. The second reason to change is that Jesus worked for health and healing, outcomes on which the US approach currently receives very mediocre marks. The third most important reason to change is that Jesus expects us to be good stewards of the resources entrusted to our care. Our healthcare industry is costly and needlessly wasteful. Finally, Jesus sought to create genuine community and honest relationships. Our healthcare industry is divisive and built on a web of misinformation and half-truths that mask the problems I've sketched above as well as others.