A case for free market healthcare

Every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the health care they need.” This quote from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is incredibly deceptive. It plays into his larger message of free healthcare for all, regardless of one’s life decisions or ability to pay. Bernie’s message of unlimited healthcare access allows him to hide under the guise of compassion while shirking all moral and fiscal responsibility. Many people agree that the goal is to lower the cost of treatment while maximizing quality. The question that most of the healthcare debate centers around, then, is how best to achieve that goal.

By declaring healthcare a right rather than recognizing it as a service that real people provide for others, Bernie is advocating theft. Healthcare is a service provided by doctors who invest thousands of dollars and many years of their life into attaining healthcare education.

As The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro points out, simply declaring something a right does not make more of that thing materialize. The way to create more of a service or product is to incentivize its creation by rolling back regulations and allowing the free market to compete for consumers’ business. Shapiro points to South Africa, whose constitution declares healthcare a right. According to Bernie’s logic, South Africa should be the healthiest country in the world since, of course, every South African has a right to healthcare.

Reality begs to differ. The World Health Organization, using data from 2012, reports that South Africa suffers 612 deaths per 100,000 people ailing from communicable diseases. For some perspective, South Africa, with their “guaranteed” healthcare, ranks about twice as worse as Afghanistan, who suffered 363 deaths. The world average is 178 deaths, and the United States suffered 31 deaths per 100,000 people with communicable diseases.

So why has Bernie’s vision not worked? A single-payer system, in which the state oversees all healthcare services, is not sustainable. Since it is impossible to pull resources out of thin air, it follows that there must be an arbiter determining who receives healthcare and to what extent. This is known as healthcare rationing, and there is no way to have a single-payer system without it. In this plan, the central bureaucracy prioritizes those in the workforce, who are contributing to the national pool of healthcare funds. This means that the elderly and those with special needs are left out and only the healthiest citizens receive care. In a pure single-payer system, like the one Bernie wants, there are not even other options for those slighted by the state. Even if a person had ten billion dollars with which to pay, there are no private practitioners they could turn to.

This flies in the face of everything that we, as a Catholic institution, value. The Church calls us to take special care of the elderly and those with special needs. The government has no interest in the poor or those who are not contributing to the national pool. The state needs to roll back regulations so the Catholic Church, with its rich history of founding hospitals and schools, can operate. In an actual single-payer system, Catholic hospitals would not be able to function. There would be no such thing as charitable healthcare. As Catholics, we need to fight single-payer healthcare and call for a free market approach.

Healthcare, perhaps one of the most heavily regulated industries today, is severely inflated. Opponents of a free market approach to healthcare argue that it is already failing America. This argument does not hold, however, since there is not a truly free market for healthcare in America today. The federal government requires employers to provide health insurance for employees, rather than allowing individual employers to determine how they want to compensate their workers and negotiate contracts.

An important distinction is the difference between healthcare coverage and actual healthcare access. Political rhetoric often centers around ensuring universal healthcare coverage, like that which exists in Canada. In reality, technical coverage does not equate to actual access. For example, in Canada, wait times for treatment are abysmal. The Fraser Institute reports that wait times nearly doubled from 1993 to 2016, the same time that the state’s death grip on the industry tightened. In order to receive actual access, many patients must leave the country and seek treatment in cities such as Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo.

So, in order to solve the healthcare crisis, Americans must learn from the mistakes of countries like Canada and South Africa, and reject the intrinsically flawed single-payer healthcare system. We must instead turn to the free market, which encourages competition, thereby guaranteeing patients the highest quality at the lowest costs.

John Hale is a freshman political science major from Michigan who gained perspective on his visit to Israel over Christmas break. Contact him at jhale1@nd.edu.