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A Short History of Healthcare

In the beginning, before the modern age, when man hurt himself from injury or acquired a disease there was no one to help him. So he cried out for healing, and someone responded, and studied how they might help man and cure him from his disease. And he became known as a doctor or teacher, and because there were so few doctors to help man from his aliments, man had to wait a long time to see the doctor, hence man became known as a patient, for if he wanted to be helped–he must be very patient!

For it was apparent, if a man couldn’t recover from his disease, then he wouldn’t be able to work and take care of his family, so paying for a doctor was a priority, so others became doctors and studied more to understand various diseases, so as to help those who fall sick, so they can take care of their families, and have money to pay the doctors.

And the people were glad for the doctors to keep them from disease, and the doctors were happy to help people as well. And there was peace in the land. As time went on, doctors charged more for their services, for they studied more, and created tests that they may ascertain what is making man sick. The doctors worked long hours for this was their lot. But there were still not enough doctors to heal man of his diseases.

So as man began to industrialize, and as the standard of living went up, the people cried out for better healthcare facilities and more competent physicians to heal them of their diseases. And the government said, we will open healthcare to free enterprise, so young entrepreneurs can create better tools, medicines, and build hospitals to keep laborers productive longer. And the capitalists beheld the future and said “this is very good business – the longer people work, the more will be our profits!” And the churches rejoiced, “we shall fulfill our mission to heal the sick.” And they too built hospitals, and educated doctors – to make man whole and to evangelize him to fill their churches.

And more hospitals were added to the landscape so people would not have to stay home to take care of sick loved ones, so they could continue to go to work, to earn money to pay taxes and buy things. With more money to pay for healthcare, new entrepreneurs came forth, and created even more medicines, and supplies, new laboratory tests and X-ray machines, and the capitalists saw this and said, this is very good for profit! And the churches continued to talk of their mission to make man whole.

But the family members, the churches, and friends cried out, we cannot afford to pay for this new healthcare! So the Capitalists and entrepreneurs decided to create a new way of paying for healthcare that would make them even more money – the 3rd Party Payer. We will preach that healthcare is not a right, but a privilege, and tell everyone to pay “a little” each month for the privilege to access healthcare.

The people responded to this calling by the 3rd Party Payers. And the 3rd Party Payers rejoiced for they now had a huge source of income. And they built very large building, at great cost – and in return, promised to pay the hospital and doctors bills so a person could get this new healthcare (note: only after premiums had been paid and exclusions and deductables applied )

The people rejoiced, because they had access to better hospitals and more educated physicians. And there was peace in the land, and for a time all were happy; the public, the doctors, the hospitals, and the entrepreneurs who were finding new ways to generate incomes from all the money paid out by the 3rd party payers.

The vendors increased, the pharmaceutical companies flourished, and doctors and hospitals embraced the new technologies and drugs that promised to make man whole. More and more money was spent and the people rejoiced even more, as the magic of entrepreneurs continued to make the tools to heal them of their diseases, accidents, and more and more, their poor life style choices.

But soon the 3rd Party Payers cried out, we cannot stay in business and keep paying out all this money, we must raise premiums to meet the demands of making man whole.

And the people murmured of this burden, and some exclaimed they could no longer pay the premiums, and they cried unto their leaders. And the leaders said we will tax the middle class more, and the leaders created Medicare to pay the hospitals and doctors.

The self appointed Protectors of the Public also said there must be justice to those who are hurt from such expensive healthcare, and set forth to involve doctors and hospitals, and vendors with the fear of litigation with massive settlements to punish those who would make mistakes. And the cost of healthcare continued to rise to offset the expensive lawsuits and trials. And the hospital and doctors began to cry out for Tort reform, but since most of the leaders were also Protectors of the Public by trade, they couldn’t understand why. And a new form of medicine came into being, call Defensive Medicine, which raised the costs making man whole even more.

And those people who come to America without permission, they too used the healthcare system, and the leaders said you must find a way to take care of these people. And the hospitals and doctors cried out more for they were healing those without permission -but not getting paid.

And then the leaders sat down, and said, we must overhaul the healthcare system to allow equal access for all.

And some leaders said we will tax every citizen to pay more money for healthcare, and we will tell the doctors and hospitals how much money they can make, and tell them how to conduct healthcare, and who should receive treatment, and who should not. While other leaders cried out, we must let free market forces reshape healthcare, and not politicians. Much discussion went on, but the leaders couldn’t agree among themselves – yet all the leaders did agree on one thing, “something must be done!”

And the hospitals exclaimed in fear and torment, “how can we run our hospitals, if we cannot get paid what we charge for our services. How will we pay our vendors and our staff and management? How will we build new hospitals, and furnish them?”

And the 3rd Party Payers realized that soon they could become simple functionaries of their leaders’ policies, and their profits will be never as they were before, and in anger and rage, vowed not to give in and worked hard to influence their leaders’ decisions!

The doctors lamented their futures, and prepared to fight for their rights to make man whole, realizing they will soon be less independent, and will work for hospitals and government agencies with decreased income. And they sought ways to pressure their leaders.

And the entrepreneurs of technologies and services will cry out; “how will we develop new machines and instruments to heal diseases, and how will we pay our staff if we cannot charge as we have before?” And they created groups to force leaders to listen to their cause.

The pharmaceutical companies shuttered and exclaimed with defiance, “how can we make new drugs and better medicines to heal people of their many ailments and continue to employ the many professionals if we do not have a good income?“ And they conspired how to change their leader’s minds

And the Protectors of the Public wailed with gnashing of teeth, and wept uncontrollably, “who will protect the people from mistakes made while in hospitals or by physicians or by large deep pocketed companies who make defective products?” And they used their talents and influence to do everything they could to prevent their leaders from taking away their rights to protect the people.

The leaders sighed and said, but we must do something to make sure all people have the same access to healthcare, regardless of income or a pre-existing illness.

And the poor rejoiced at their leader’s words,

The rich complained bitterly.

The middle class moaned because they had little or no recourse.

The liberal felt justified.

The conservative felt betrayed.

The capitalists began to look for other ways to use their money.

The socialist felt society was coming into a new more progressive age, and were exceedingly happy.

And the individual was left confused.

And the patient asked, “is there anyway I can get an aspirin around here?”

Don Barton has previously written about The Secularization of Adventist Higher Education in the United States.

Art: Thomas Eakins, The Gross Clinic (detail), 1875.

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