The solution to our health care problem is simple: Let’s sell our babies.
The United States currently ranks 169th in the world in infant mortality. A baby born in the U.S. is less likely to see its first birthday than one born in Latvia or Cuba or New Caledonia. And according to a paper by economists at the University of Southern California, Brown University, and MIT, this underperformance is driven “entirely, or almost entirely” by mortality among the poor, who have less access to health care.
Our babies are dying at a terrifying rate, an indefensible embarrassment for a country that spends far more than any other on health care. But we are an inventive, energetic and practical people who are determined to continue with our market-driven approach to health care, so we need to find a way to turn these human liabilities into assets.
The U.S. Senate has proposed a bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act that would increase the number of uninsured by 22 million people by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The Senators did this in order to eliminate the investment tax and income on households earning more than a quarter of a million dollars a year. While millionaires would get a tax cut averaging $52,000 a year, the deductibles for poor families would increase to an extent that “few low-income people would purchase any plan,” as the CBO puts it. Furthermore Medicaid, which insures 40% of all children and pays for almost half of all births, would be reduced by $772 billion over the next ten years.
That’s a start and a good one, but will result in even more dead babies.
Fortunately, there’s a solution to this problem, one that will pay off for mothers, doctors and the country as a whole. We merely need to establish an income threshold – for example, the national poverty rate — that a prospective mother must exceed in order to keep her baby. Any mother that fails to reach this threshold will have her baby euthanized at birth and then sold, whole or in parts, to hospitals, reputable researchers, and other countries.
Now, anyone who is initially alarmed by such a program should keep in mind that an increasing number of these babies would be dying anyway, so little is lost in that regard. When the babies are sold, we would both improve our mortality rates and generate needed revenue. The babies’ bodies could be used for medical research, stem cells, and organ harvesting.
The funds raised from this program, which would amount to several thousand dollars per head, could be split between the mother and the obstetrician. For the mother, the money could be deposited into a health savings account, the additional benefit being that these funds would ultimately flow back into the health care system the first time she suffers from any sort of medical emergency or disease, the costs of which would likely exceed the amount she was paid for her baby.
For obstetricians, whose mean annual wages exceed $220,000, an additional few thousand dollars per baby might not seem like much of an incentive. But we only need to remind ourselves that in 2015, U.S. doctors wrote more than 227 million opioid prescriptions, a bottle for 9 out every 10 adult Americans. The overprescribing of a highly addictive drug is not hard to understand when we take into account that those same doctors (already among the highest paid professionals in the world) augmented their collective income by more than $7 billion in payments from medical device and pharmaceutical companies, a number of whom sell those same opioids.
There is a chance that some resourceful mothers will attempt to give birth in Canada, where their children would not be sold off and the cost of delivery is far less. Fortunately, we already have some experience with cheaper and life-saving foreign threats to our health care industry. For example, though the cancer treatment drug, Gleevec, costs $60,000 per year more in the U.S. than in Canada, we had the foresight to criminalize the importation of this and every other branded drug from that country. If we can prevent cheaper, life-saving drugs from crossing the border, there’s no reason to believe we can’t do the same with mothers attempting to save their babies.
If this program seems like a challenging proposition, adding a layer of bureaucracy to an already bloated system, there is an alternative measure that we could implement to put all Americans, rich and poor, on the road to healthier lives. We could make health care a right and design a system that covers every citizen, the way Germany, Canada, France, Australia, the U.K. and every other developed country in the world does. Of course, there’s no reason to believe that clear-thinking congressmen and women would support legislation that would dry up such a rich source of campaign funding as the health care industry — the hospitals and doctors, the medical device, pharmaceutical and insurance companies that currently account for more than 18% of the economy — so perhaps that is a non-starter.
Still, we need not fear that a health system of the people, by the people, and for the people shall perish from the earth. Such a system will live on in every other wealthy country in the world, where we can sell an increasing number of our poor, dead babies.
My first novel is available here: The Last Island