On “consumership” in healthcare

The healthcare system tells people they should be good “healthcare consumers,” and they believe it. This delusion is heartbreaking. In reality, there is no such thing as a “heath care consumer.” There are only people with bodies, who love other people with bodies.

On “consumership” in healthcare
Vikki Ortiz, “How much does it cost to save a life? Sometimes treating cancer means going broke,” Chicago Tribune (May 24, 2018)

“My main point was to keep my kid alive.”

So says the father of a six-year-old girl with cancer in Vikki Ortiz’s gut-punch of a story in the Chicago Tribune about “cancer-related financial toxicity.”

Here’s what I learned from that story:

It is long past time to abandon the delusion that the “market” for health care can or should operate like a market for any other consumer good.

It’s long past time to let go of the delusion that we can fix things by inventing new and better “market driven reforms that,” as the CMS writes brightly, “empower beneficiaries as consumers.”

The cherished fantasy of a “market” in which “health care consumers” make rational economic choices: that woefully common fetish generates more than wildly incoherent (and grotesquely profitable) health policy — though it certainly generates plenty of that.

Here’s the kicker: We tell people they should be good “health care consumers,” and they believe it.

They believe it so deeply that, when getting care for a serious illness bankrupts them, they’re ashamed. They think they’ve failed.

To get that shame out of the shadows, we’ve name it like a disease. Per the Tribune: advocates like Carla Tardif of Family Reach “say they hope to take the shame out of cancer-related financial toxicity.”

The shame of #CRFT: the shame of not having “shopped” well enough; the shame of needing care in the first place; the shame of not being rich; the shame of being a bad “health care consumer.” This delusion is heartbreaking.

So, please, let’s agree on one clear and simple truth:

There is no such thing as a “heath care consumer.”

There are only people with bodies, who love other people with bodies, and who respond to the threat of suffering or death with a sincere willingness to go to any length, incur any debt, and suffer any indignity.

In short, #consumership in health care is a sick joke. Let’s stop telling it.