What if Costco Ran Healthcare?


As people have finally managed to penetrate the riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma that is the federal health insurance exchange login screen, they are discovering the truth behind the absurd promises that ObamaCare would slow the rise of the oceans and lead to world peace. In fact, instead of making healthcare affordable for hard-working Americans, premiums, deductibles, copays, and fees are going up as fast as Obama’s approval ratings are going down. It didn’t have to be this way.



ObamaCare’s onslaught of new taxes and regulations is forcing employers to abandon the former HMO and PPO model which allowed most people to visit a doctor or even an emergency room with a minimal copay. Instead, the move to high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) is starting to resemble a Costco membership. Can we call it Costcobamacare? You pay a fee up front (although at least Costco lets you see their membership fees before you sign up) for the privilege of shopping at their store, but the discounts only save you money on selected items and then only when you purchase massive quantities.

Case in point: in the age of ObamaCare, prescription drugs are now much cheaper if you purchase a 90-day supply. This is a good idea for things like toilet paper and dog food, but not so much for habit-forming painkillers or horse-strength laxatives. Another example: under ObamaCare, the move to HDHPs will stick you with a big bill if you need to visit a doctor for a minor condition like a weird rash or a stubborn cough. You only get full benefits if you hit your annual out-of-pocket maximum, which could be thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Perversely, ObamaCare only exacerbates the problem of unnecessary procedures that allow providers to run up the bill. Buying in bulk pays.

The resemblance to Costco ends there though. Whereas Costco actually does have lower prices than their competitors, ObamaCare manages to turn the Costco model on its head. Costco stresses simplicity and efficiency in their stores to minimize costs. As the customer, you have a limited set of options for a given product and they don’t waste time with arranging the merchandise or fancy packaging. ObamaCare on the other hand requires your insurance to cover a multitude of conditions that the recipients will never need—such as taxpayer-funded contraceptives, prenatal care, and free breast pumps for post-menopausal women.

While Costco just unloads pallets directly to the warehouse floor and lets customers do the heavy lifting, ObamaCare includes all kinds of mandates that interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. Instead of letting the doctor and patient decide what care makes sense, the government now has panels of unelected “experts” to decide what care you should have and how much it should cost. Of course, as we are now seeing, whenever the government tells you how much something should cost, it’s a good bet it’ll end up costing you more in the end.

Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act of 1935 into Law

Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act of 1935 into Law

There is a silver lining that HDHPs do qualify you for a tax-deductible health savings account, but even then, if you have a two-income family that is already struggling to make ends meet, you probably don’t have the extra money to put in the account in the first place. As with any tax deduction, you have to spend the money up front to see any benefit later on. Worst of all, the drastically higher premiums and deductibles actually provide a perverse incentive to become poor so people can qualify for subsidies that will only end up driving up costs even more.

For all the shortcomings of Social Security and Medicare, they were at least honest in their aims to help the aged live in dignity without trying to engage in social engineering. When Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act of 1935 into law, it was a mere 32 pages. The program has needed modification over the years to respond to demographic changes—and will need to be changed again in our lifetimes if it is to remain effective, but it has survived for as long as it has precisely because of its Costco-like simplicity. As Christians we are commanded to heal the sick, but in its complexity ObamaCare completely and utterly fails to accomplish this important and worthy goal.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


About Author

Joshua Bowman joined in full communion with the Catholic Church in 2010 after many years in the spiritual wilderness. He recently moved back to his beloved native Virginia from Columbus, Ohio with his growing family and writes on religion, politics, history, and geographical curiosities.

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