Monday, November 22, 2010

Both Oranges and Health Care Can Be Substituted

(And Why This Is Important)

Imagine that a bored billionaire made it a pet project to research all of the health benefits of eating oranges. The billionaire would hire the best scientists and use cutting edge technology for his research. Imagine the findings that might be produced. The billionaire's new Orange Journal would be brimming with excellent research showing the benefits of eating oranges.

Oranges' antioxidants would be categorized and individually studied. Research might show that eating oranges extends lifespan. The benefits of potassium and Vitamin C would be further studied. Oranges might be shown to have antimicrobial properties. Other findings would show that eating oranges reduces the risk of heart attacks. Research might even show that people that eat oranges have lower incidence of certain cancers. 

With all the research and publicity on oranges, they would become a major craze. Experts would make statements about how many oranges should be eaten daily. People would be seen carrying oranges around the office. All America would be saving lives, one orange at a time.

And yet, despite all the craze, oranges would still be substitutable. This would become especially apparent once orange prices skyrocketed because of the massive orange consumption. In a pinch most of us would still survive with an apple or banana in our lunches. The vitamin C and potassium could be obtained from other food sources. The reduced cancer risk could equally be attained by smoking cessation. Despite all the excitement and research showing the benefits of oranges, most people could get by using substitutes for oranges.

American health care is a lot like oranges. Trillions of dollars of research has been poured into the development of health care services. Pharmaceuticals have been extensively studied and have proven benefits. Health care providers work hard to prove that every intervention is backed by solid research. America has swallowed the pitch that our health care is invaluable. Some even go so far to state that health care is a right, apparently inalienable and inseparable from the human experience. 

But is it? Is our current version of health care irreplaceable? Is there any substitute for American health care?

In the case of our oranges, we saw that despite proven benefits of eating oranges, they could be substituted. The same is the case with our current health care system. A substitute can be recognized or developed for every benefit that medical technology currently offers. These substitutes can be found in dietary and nutritional sciences, in behavioral changes, in further pharmaceutical discovery, or in religious exercise or divine intervention.

For example, what is a viable substitute for diabetes treatment? The answer is diet and exercise. What is a viable substitute for antibiotic treatment for childhood ear infections? Research now shows that no treatment is generally just as effective and is thus a viable substitute. What about a substitute for antidepressant medication? Counseling and therapy are proven viable substitutes. What about chemotherapy for cancer? In many cases there may be no currently recognized substitute, but it is certain that  substitute therapies will be discovered. 

It is an absolute fact that substitutes can be recognized or developed for every medical intervention now currently utilized in the American health care system.

American health care is a commodity. It is an extremely valuable commodity, but still one that can be substituted by other commodities. Unlike the right to freely worship God, the right to free speech, and the right to bear arms, health care can be substituted. It is subject to the laws of economics, as are all other commodities. 

If American health care is "universalized" and made absolutely accessible to the public, it will be consumed out of proportion to its existing supply and prices will skyrocket. Health care will be utilized for silly, trivial purposes and thus become unavailable for serious problems. Instead of attempting to mandate and universalize health care, doesn't it make sense to allow for and encourage substitution? Wouldn't it be better that Americans find viable substitutions for the existing system? 

Rusty Scalpel