In the gospel reading for next Sunday (Luke 13:10-17), Jesus heals a woman who has been crippled for eighteen years. In biblical numerology, the number eighteen symbolizes bondage. The number eighteen also connotes a long time.
Pursuing the list of the world’s largest corporations by global revenue, I was surprised to discover that four of the ten largest U.S. corporations are healthcare focused: UnitedHealth Group, McKesson, CVS Health and AmerisourceBergen. Altogether, seven of the world’s one hundred largest corporations are in the U.S. healthcare industry (pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, health insurance, etc.). No healthcare focused corporation based in another nation made the list of the one hundred largest corporations.
The list puts the size and economic power of the U.S. healthcare industry into perspective. No wonder the U.S. has the world’s most expensive healthcare and only mediocre results as measured by patient outcomes.
Persons who live in the U.S. are crippled, in bondage, to a healthcare system broadly focused on profits and not individual or social well-being. We need to heal our healthcare system now. Realistically, change generally occurs incrementally. Proposals to dramatically change the healthcare system in the U.S. are almost certainly dead on arrival. Realistic, incremental steps potentially include gradually building on the Affordable Care Act, increasing access to Medicaid and lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare.
Observers criticized Jesus for healing the woman on the Sabbath. Proponents of moving away from a market driven healthcare system are similarly criticized for abandoning capitalism in favor of socialism. Yet sick people and their loved ones, presuming that they can obtain the requisite pricing data and appropriate medical knowledge in a timely manner, are rarely in an emotional condition to make the informed, rational choices that capitalism theoretically requires. Consequently, what advocates of the status quo defend as capitalism is actually an oligopolistic system in which suppliers and providers dictate non-competitive prices and often decide treatment protocols based upon the provider’s bottom line rather than the patient’s well-being.