Good Essay On Capitalism Can Never Breed Morality In Healthcare
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Healthcare the United States is a complex and heavily debated topic politically, economically, and socially. Healthcare is predicated on the “almighty dollar,” in turn there is an ethical dilemma with healthcare to operate on profit over the well-being of individual lives. Can healthcare ever be ethical, morally sound and “just” when operated under a capitalist ideology? The answer to this question is no. The principles of capitalism automatically breed inequality among different members in any community it is no surprise that healthcare was absorbed into that mentality and become a profitable industry all of its own. You cannot put a price on the value of a human life, yet that is what has happened in the traditional healthcare system. The first time that someone with a serious illness were unable to afford the medications they needed and died as a consequence a price has just been established; in this case the value of $50 worth of medications. Healthcare cannot be relegated as a for-profit industry. It is not possible for healthcare to remain ethical or moral under the umbrella of a capitalist economic structure.
No human lifetime can ever be exactly the same, especially when it comes to individual health. It is no wonder that healthcare the United States is a complex and heavily debated topic politically, economically, and socially. The United States spends more on healthcare than any other Western nation, yet contains the highest number of uninsured people among the same nations (Navarro, 2003). Health care is changing with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, but it is debatable as yet if it provides a feasible solution or simply an endeavor that makes things worse. There are many who feel that it makes no matter what healthcare policy is implemented as long as it is part of the capitalist market then it can never be universally available or justly offered. Granted any capitalist system is founded on the accumulation of property and currency, so if healthcare is predicated on the “almighty dollar,” then there is an ethical dilemma where healthcare operates for profit over the well-being of individual lives. Some people today feel that that is the direction American healthcare is headed and it will only lead to greater disparities between different economic classes of people and greater inequality of and access to care. This begs the question; can healthcare ever be ethical, morally sound and just when operated under a capitalist ideology? The answer to this question is no. Once a capitalist ideology is adopted everything becomes a concern of quantity, accumulation and the prize is awarded to the highest bidder; this raises moral and ethical concerns when the health and well-being of individual Americans is in question.
What exactly is Capitalism and how is it ingrained in the American ideology? In the most basic definition capitalism is “an economic system that encourages individuals and all segments of society to profit from the ownership of processes that create goods and services or from investments in activities or services created by others” (The Debate Organization, 2013). In other words, if you can put a monetary value to it, then that is what one should do. The principles of capitalism were embraced in the Western world as a way for individuals to profit from their own ingenuity and skills; in many ways it is the foundational thinking behind the “American Dream.” (Columbia University, 2015). The principles of capitalism automatically breed inequality among different members in any community it is no surprise that healthcare was absorbed into that mentality and become a profitable industry all of its own. The necessary presence of poor, middle, and upper class, which is formed via capitalism, creates an economic equality that leads to inequality in all other aspects of American life, including healthcare (Navarro, 2003). As the numbers of the population continues to grow the greater the need for greater healthcare services and means that people would pay for that care needed to expand. It was in the mid-nineteenth century that the first insurance companies began to spring up and became the powerful and profit-making “middle-man” in the obtaining and paying for healthcare (Djelic & Bothello, (2009).
Healthcare is a necessity of any civilizations. The primary reasoning is to prevent the spread of diseases throughout communities, but treating injuries and providing medication for the sick is close behind. Once upon a time, healers were part of spiritual beliefs not practitioners of a skill that can be bartered for monetary value, like auto repair or carpentry. The disparities in healthcare have existed for decades, based primarily upon the idea that those with more money have access to greater healthcare quality and quantity of care than those that do not (The Debate Organization, 2013).The peoples interaction with the healthcare industry follow a similar course. An individual either purchases an insurance plan or is provided one by their employer; the patient is then required to visit physicians within their specific “network” who they know little about. When they visit this doctor they are often sent for a battery of tests, the cost of which is partially covered by the insurance company and the remainder the cost is the burden of the patient (Roy, 2010).
Healthcare has been an incredibly profitably industry for decades. Getting the best care, by the best physician, is entirely an issue of what one can afford. The most expensive procedures and innovative technologies are only available for those who can afford the expenditure. Many Americans find out too late that the insurance that they have paid for is actually far more limited than they may have been led to believe. This can leave a large burden on the individual to pay for the remainder of their care. This can be a problem when the most life-threatening diseases require the most costly of treatments, which may be far more than most Americans can afford to pay (Roy, 2010). This is intrinsically unethical and immoral, but it is the result of capitalism. To compensate for that, the government allows for state and federal aid to treat the uninsured. However, the care being received at that level is far less quality and the options far less than those who can pay the higher costs. So many people are billed for services in code, with terminology they cannot decipher and included charges that they do not know if were necessary. So people are spending billions of dollars in healthcare they do not entirely understand (Navarro, 2003). After all being a physician can be lucrative to people with few options. A fair comparison is that when someone wishes to test drive a vehicle before expending their resources on purchasing it then they have that right. In healthcare you have to pay for the services and hope that it was a good fit.
It should also be noted that there is a vast, under-discussed, number of people who die every year from the lack of medical insurance and means to facilitate their treatments. In fact, three times more people die in a year from lack of medical care than die from some lethal illnesses, like AIDS (Navarro, 2003). This is where the disparities that evolve in a capitalist system begin to become problematic and lead to questions of economic biases, which are most certainly unethical and, even, immoral. That said there are five very specific aspects to healthcare in a capitalist society that help to show just how unethical and potentially immoral it can be.
Firstly, the unpredictability of human health over a lifetime differs completely from another, therefore no single standard can address individual needs; making this issue inappropriately imbalanced between those with the greatest need but the least resources. Secondly, the rising costs healthcare professionals’ education is extremely expensive. That said doctors require higher prices when working to compensate for the debt of their training. However, the fact that there is a price in and of itself creates imbalance. Next, the need for trust is paramount; the doctor patient relationship is one based on one’s health and wellness, therefore something more intimate than other “goods” for sale on the market, which leaves the “buyer” at a disadvantage. Fourth, medical knowledge and competency, or lack thereof, leaves the patients at a disadvantage. Again, most patients are less knowledgeable about medicine and the conditions that may require treatment. The physician has specialized knowledge and skills, information that the patients seldom do. Again, the patient is buying a service working under the assumption that the “seller” knows what he or she is doing.” Finally, price and payment of healthcare has patients either paying up front with little understanding of the procedures they are paying for or after the services have been rendered and the outcomes are irreversible. Add into this the codes and under-explained charges added by insurance companies. In the end the patients never know exactly what they are paying for (Roy, 2010).
In the political realm healthcare has been and remains a heavily and heatedly debated topic. Unfortunately the two sides of the issues, Democrats and Republican, liberals and conservatives, cannot see eye-to-eye on this issue or any other. Over the last decade greater and greater research has been done into determining resolution and reforms that can create greater balance and eliminate the inequalities indentified in healthcare. The current administration has passed and implemented the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as a way to socialize medicine and eliminate the influences of the capitalist markets. However, as yet there have already been issues, controversies and disagreements with the ethical and moral implications as well. In general the is likely to always be, “simply put, liberals believe that health care is treated as a market commodity today but should not be, and conservatives think that health care is not treated as a market commodity but should be” (Roy, 2010). This leaves little room for compromises, which, of course, focus the argument, once again on profit and financial “bottom-lines,” and very little argument on reforming the equality of care that is desperately needed in the United States today.
According to modern philosophical positions in relation to this topic, John Rawls, offers the perspective of “justice as fairness,” which offers an ideology of true equality. Where there are no preconceived notions, class considerations, or economic comparisons in aspects of life, like healthcare. According to Rawls and those that support his position, this mentality is the only one that can eliminate disparities and inequalities from healthcare. That said the best way to make that happen is to implement a form of socialized medicine (Henneberger, 2011). The Affordable Care Act was the chosen policy to meet the needed reforms. Granted it has proven a bit disorganized and poorly launched; however, while the means may not have proven ideal but the spirit behind it can have a tangible impact on the disparities that can and will continue to exist in a capitalist healthcare system (Debate Organization, 2015). We always hear that you cannot put a price on the value of a human life, yet that is what has happened in the traditional healthcare system. The first time that someone with a serious illness were unable to afford the medications they need died as a consequence, a price has just been established; in this case the value of $50 worth of medications.
There is no denying that there are disparities between different people. The reality of “classism” is alive and flourishing in America today. We see the disparities between education in impoverished communities and those that are more affluent, we see disparities in the careers that some people are able to acquire, and we even see racial disparities in economics, as well (Navarro, 2003). Given the diversity of economics, experiences and biology that exists in the world today is it any surprise that equality in healthcare is not easy to achieve. Unfortunately, as long as money remains the key player in any and every industry, including medicine, then there is little hope of rectifying the issues. However, today the ethical and moral responsibilities of modern healthcare is so often debated yet it is the future ethical and moral conundrums that could arise, that are even more concerning, if a capitalist ideology persists in the healthcare industry, regardless of current reforms, like Obamacare (Henneberger, 2011).
The disparities within the system will persist, the spaces between the classes will widen, and as with many capitalist structures results in overall national instabilities on all levels, financially, politically, socially, ethically, and morally (Columbia University, 2015). They would likely be more people who are unknowingly under-insured and may find that the monies they spend will not cover the medical procedures that they or their loved ones may need. We could, possibly see, similar behavior as in the film “John Q.” Where a hardworking father realizes that the treatment to save his young son is not covered by his insurance, it is incredibly costly, and without his son will die. He snaps and takes drastic and violent measures to secure his sons treatment (Navarro, 2003). Or more frighteningly we will see the medical industry like the ones detailed in science fiction, like “Repo Man.” In this reality medicine is as much a profitable industry as any other. People can procure needed treatment, like organ donations, in the same way that one purchases a vehicle. If you need to, you can finance that treatment, but if you miss too many payments, they will repossess what has not been paid for. In other words they will take back an organ and allow anyone to die as result of lack of payment. This is a dark exaggeration, but if medicine is not eliminated as a profit industry, it is not an entirely impossible outcome. If prices can be placed on a life, then taking back that life in exchange for debts unpaid is hardly an impossible leap of the imagination.
The inequities and disparities among the different capitalist class organization is very real and can spread into every facet of American society. Physicians often suggest more costly procedures when they know they can afford it; the same treatments they may not be offered to someone whose healthcare is provided by the government. The best quality and quantities of healthcare are reserved for those that can pay for them and denied to those who cannot. While many people question the process, effectiveness and efficiency of the newest healthcare reform, there is a need for healthcare to be founded on different principles than the capitalist structure the bulk of the United States is founded upon. Healthcare cannot be relegated as for-profit industry, we cannot allow income to determine quality of medical interventions and we cannot allow prices to be placed on lives, where money is the determinate. The research concludes that it is not possible for healthcare to remain ethical or moral under the umbrella of a capitalist economic structure.
Djelic, M., & Bothello, J. (2009). 1 Limited Liability and Moral Hazard Implications – An
Alternative Reading of the Financial Crisis. Max Planck Sciences Po Center, 1-40.
Henneberger, I. (2011). Healthcare and Justice: A Moral Obligation? Connecticut College, 1-65.
Navarro, V. (2003). The Inhuman State of U.S. Health Care. Monthly Review, 554(4), 1-1
Roy, A. (2010, January 1). Health Care and the Profit Motive. National Affairs, 1-1. Web.
Columbia University. (2015, January 1). Theory of Capitalism. Retrieved January 17, 2015,
The Debate Organization. (2013, January 1). History and Debate of Capitalism. Retrieved
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