Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Free-Markets and Health: Efficient. Deadly Efficient

In today's Kansas City Star, Robert Schwab, chairman of emergency medicine at Truman Medical Center Hospital Hill, relates the story of a recently uninsured Missourian:

...he treated a man whose diabetes had become uncontrolled. The man had been seeing the same doctor regularly for years, but after he was laid off and lost his insurance, the doctor dropped him. The man was unable to get a new insulin prescription.
After Truman stabilized the man’s blood-sugar level, he was discharged with a new prescription.

“The question is, what doctor will write his next prescription?” Schwab said. “If he doesn’t get it, he’ll be back here in the same dilemma.”


One might surmise that free-market economics could not possibly help resolve this problem. Au contraire, GW and the free-market loving Republicans have the answer: If this citizen were to Google "Health Savings Account" plus the term "quote" HSA Finders would be listed first and he would be just a few clicks away from a rate quote similar to this for a 50 year old male with zero co-pay:




Fantastic! This high deductible plan should get our citizen premiums he can meet for 6 months, so his diabetes can be under control while he looks for a job.

All that remains is to click on the "apply" button and answer a few questions (including whether he had received treatment for diabetes) then he would see the magic of the markets at work:




Oops.

Well, this is a small sample. Surely the policies of the free-market Republicans means that soon there will be scores of other health insurance companies chomping at the bit to get this man's business! Or, it could mean that the market is telling this citizen to die or get the hell out of the way so that nice diabetes-free family pictured above can sign up for one of these plans.

Free-market evangelists might say markets work in mysterious ways. Or was that television evangelists? Sometimes I get them confused.