healthcare is NOT a free-market, tradeable, commodity

interesting seminar
BOP educator, Rev Raymond Bonwell, teaching

Day Two of the “Last Third of Your Life” seminar was a mixture of actuarial tables, conversations about transitions, and penetrating questions surrounding the looming unknown.

The sessions were interesting and informative, but the bottom line for me turned out to be less a question of, “will we be able to afford to retire” as “I can’t believe so much in the way of resource allocation is going to turn – is already turning – on the question of health.”

And I’m not talking about the unique-to-us bottom line Rebekah and I will be looking at by the time we move into the world of Medicare, Part A, Part B, and then supplemental coverage. What I am talking about is a collective – a social or public policy – concern: the galloping, almost exponential, progression of medical (and consequently insurance) costs, and the absurdity of specifically coding and monetizing literally every describable detail of every possible element that comprises a health-related interaction.

ENOUGH!!! Sometimes I’d think I’d like to stand on a desk somewhere in the middle of the (disturbingly symbiotic) juxtaposition of the world of medicine and insurance, and simply shout, “STOP IT!” at the top of my voice.

When codes and billing (rather than “care”) define healthcare delivery, and the living heartbeat of the industry becomes revenue rather than restoration, then I believe it is past time to re-imagine the entire system.

In fact, I’ll say that rather than going “too far,” the essential premise of Obamacare fails to even scratch the surface of going far enough!

sitting on the porch and thinking...
sitting on the porch and thinking…

But I shouldn’t be surprised, not when I remember that we live in a culture where almost everything has become a commodity, and where we attempt to place a dollar value on every conceivable element of what it means to be alive. It all fits snugly – and disturbingly – into the cultural value that a meaningful life necessarily revolves around money, and that we really can reduce (and by reduce I really do mean reduce) everything to the common denominator of price.

COMPASSION: So I can’t help but be reminded of the classic encounter between the disciples and a man begging for money (like money was what mattered) in Acts 3:

And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

  • The value that fuels our transactions must make a shift from currency to community;
  • Rather than write billable code we should document acts of grace;
  • Instead of reaching for the bottom line we should reach out to “the least of these.”

No, I don’t have a practical solution – not yet. But I do own a sense of profound dis-ease. I believe that – in the world of medicine – profit is increasingly counterproductive both in terms of quality care and equitable access.

last morning in the mountains
last morning in the mountains

Yes, this kind of thinking is an anomaly in a society governed by the rules of free-market enterprise. But it’s important that we free ourselves from narrow-mindedness – and most especially politics – when looking for solutions.

Let’s keep the conversation open. Peace – DEREK








Live Like You Mean It

derekmaul View All →

Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at, and there’s always something new in the works.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.

Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Derek,

    I think your thoughts are not an anomaly. I know many in the health care field who are very bothered by the current system that creates a market for access to care where some are denied and others can buy whatever care they want. They see the obstacles first hand and are at the system’s mercy when it comes to doing the jobs they are trained and called to do.

    The sky rocketing costs are unbelievable. I became aware recently of quite a few pharmaceutical and health-related companies that maintain huge cash reserves – among the highest globally. But we are always told that drug costs and such are high because of all the R&D that these companies are doing. Hmm…

    It absolutely makes one’s heart ache that as a well off society, we choose to treat our “least” – mostly our aging, our sick and our youngest – with such callousness. I don’t have a solution either, but we must keep pushing for one. We can do better by those who need us to. So keep putting it out there.



  2. I cannot understand what you mean by this statement: “. the essential premise of Obamacare fails to even scratch the surface of going far enough!”

    We are not ones who believe that the Government must give every person health-care, whether or not they can pay toward it. If the Christian Community had been caring for the indigent and the poor, we wouldn’t have such overwhelming welfare costs. Persona responsibility also needs to enter in here somewhere .

    We do agree that medical practitioners will quickly be forced into such a nightmare of bureaucracy due to over-coding mandates, and sooner or later, there will simply be no care for many. You cannot add millions of people to a system when doctors are leaving the field in droves, and not simply run out of options. I’m told by physicians that no one is encouraging their children toward Med School or Med Practice, other than in the research end.

    Sadly, it’s a minefield of chaos, across the board,

    Blessings, Carleene



  3. I agree with your headline almost without reservation. Yes, there is a cost and a value to both the skill of the provider and the care provided. However, free market commodities require other factors noticeably absent from “healthcare.”

    That being said, there are so many reasons why a single payer system is both the morally and fiscally responsible choice. Medical bills can destroy a lifetime of work. Competition is, in practice, non-existent. We already pay more, per capita, than many first world nations with universal care, yet the majority of Americans receive no care…so we pay that amount again to companies that are already getting subsidies and tax breaks and government incentives at every level. It’s far past time we moved beyond this fundamentally flawed and irreparably broken system.

    As for concrete suggestions, I think we could begin with a universal, single payer system that covered preventative and other basic care while leaving the insurance companies in place to market supplemental dread disease and longterm care plans. Given the current demographic trends, these two coverage lines could be incredibly lucrative while also being cost-effective for average consumers.


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