The conservative movement has long been based upon the belief that market forces create the best of circumstances for all people when left free to flourish. In most cases, I believe fully in that principle.
Yet, that premise is based upon the idea that people make rational economic decisions in each and ever choice they make. Health care, however, seems to be a place where rational decisions are not made.
Think on this example. Suppose your father, mother, son or daughter was lying in a hospital and fighting for their lives. Then suppose some hospital staffer walks up to you and says, “Sign this.” You will not sit there and think rationally about the market forces. You will sign whatever is put in front of you, in hopes that your loved ones get the care that they need.
I learned about that firsthand five years ago when my father was critically injured in an automobile accident, and I was the first relative at the hospital. I would have agreed to anything. If someone had told me, “you will owe one million dollars with 50% interest,” I would have agreed to it. I relearned that lesson again recently, when one of my best friends was diagnosed with liver cancer. I would sign any note, or any obligation, that would give him a longer lease on life. I know his wife and parents would as well.
Deciding whether or not to agree to the fees for one’s health care or one’s loved one’s health care is not like shopping for a shirt and deciding Wal-Mart has the best price. It is just not rational to expect that human beings will act rationally in choosing health care. They want what will save lives, and the costs are damned.
There are cold souls out there who realize that and take advantage of it. Not so long ago in our country, the medical profession was based upon serving others. The vast majority of hospitals at one time were charitable in nature and non profit. The local doctor was a man or woman who was respected for the care they gave, not because they wanted to get rich.
That is not so today. Hospitals, medical insurance companies, and yes, even the doctors. want the big money. The ever shrinking manufacturing base of this country has created an economy based upon service industries, the most profitable among them being health care. Hospitals that were once filled with doctors and nurses who wanted to serve first and a handful of administrators, have now become administrative monsters. Those administrative monsters are coupled with big insurance companies, where a clerk decides, based on some manual created by another clerical person, what healthcare treatment one should receive.
It is the biggest problem facing conservatism today, and the issue that Democrats, with all their faults, can score huge political points upon against Republicans. More and more, it seems the average, hardworking Joe Sixpack who would otherwise vote Republican without a thought faces some sort of healthcare nightmare. Perhaps it is with himself. Perhaps it is with a friend who can not get the care any human being should have because his health insurance provider decided otherwise. But, the problem is out there, lurking as a big shadow over the conservative movement.
As one man told me recently, he could, “live with gays getting married,” if someone would make sure his wife could get proper treatments for her cancer.
Such is the irrational nature of health care economics. People will give up almost anything, including their money, their principles, and their dignity, just to have a shot at getting good health care. It is virtually impossible to make a rational choice in such matters. Just imagine if oxygen was something we had to buy.
That makes health care the issue that haunts conservatives, especially us Christian conservatives, who believe in the teachings of Christ about taking care of the poor, the weak and the elderly.
As such, health care might prove to be the albatross around the Republican neck in the upcoming Presidential election and primaries in South Carolina. As the costs and business bureaucracy continues to grow, health care is quickly becoming the domestic crisis of our time.