Acton Institute Powerblog

A look inside a pro-life, free-market healthcare system

Proponents of massive government programs like Medicare for All often present their schemes as though there were no alternative to state intervention. Thankfully, a life-affirming, healthcare practice shows that the free market has a superior answer about how to care for vulnerable women and their babies.

Chris Gast of Right to Life of Michigan drew my attention to the story of Mark Blocher, a Christian bioethicist who believes medical practices should reflect their faith, something often difficult even in our present hybrid, public-private system.

Blocher worked with desperate, impoverished women who considered having an abortion for economic reasons and believed only a faithful witness could properly treat their needs.

He also wanted to give pro-life advocates a strong, Christ-centered medical alternative.

“Too often,” when a pregnant woman is making her decision, “we send her off to a Medicaid provider or someone else who doesn’t share a life-affirming view,” Blocher told Gast.

So, Blocher created Christian Healthcare Centers, a healthcare provider based on the direct primary care model. Gast explains:

Direct primary care is an alternative model for offering basic medical services at a doctor’s office. Instead of going to your doctor’s office and billing the services to an insurance company, patients pay a small monthly fee to receive unlimited primary care services. Because most health insurance plans have high deductibles, most insured patients wind up paying for basic medical care out-of-pocket anyway. The direct primary care “subscription” is designed to reduce the overhead for the clinic, freeing doctors and nurses from insurance paperwork to devote more time to seeing patients, and ultimately reduce the overall cost to the patient.

One major advantage is institutional: They do not accept outside insurance, so they do not have to hire staff to navigate a labyrinth of rules and regulations, private or public. This allows them to charge less than other facilities – both because of lower overhead and because they eliminate one of the key drivers of healthcare inflation: health insurance companies.

Health insurance was intended to insure against unforeseeable accidents, disabilities, or diseases. As insurance companies gradually expanded their mandate beyond catastrophic coverage to include routine check-ups and physicals, medical costs ballooned. Hospitals charged the maximum reimbursement allowed by the company. Patients, who did not understand the opaque nature of insurance billing, knew only that their premiums increased every year.

Direct primary care cuts out the middle man and returns to the ideal of having a personal relationship with your doctor. It introduces price transparency, which also reduces “surprise” medical costs. For instance, CHC charges a flat subscription rate, beginning as low as $80 a month in exchange for a defined series of services.

Although direct primary care offices have flourished in recent years, caregivers have often had to fight for their existence from state legislators eager to regulate them.

CHC – which is a for-profit institution – states that, by “operating independently from the constraints associated with traditional insurance reimbursement, CHC is free to focus exclusively on patients and their wellness – physically, spiritually, emotionally and relationally.” This includes operating according to an explicitly Christian ethos that offers only ethical treatment and prays for patients.

National healthcare systems do not reflect these values, because their top-down, one-size-fits-all model does not allow it. As the tragedies of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans show, cost-cutting and healthcare rationing lie at the heart of any single-payer healthcare system.

“Every time we object to a thing being done by government,” wrote Frédéric Bastiat, “the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.” Read Gast’s account of how a Christian ethicist founded a life-affirming, free-market alternative to Planned Parenthood. Then, if you wish to be pro-life, go and do likewise.

Related:

Medicare for All is not pro-life

The moral quandary of national healthcare

(Photo credit: Public domain.)

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson is Executive Editor of the Acton Institute's flagship journal Religion & Liberty and edits its transatlantic website.