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Restoring Faith in a Free-Market Healthcare System

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The New York Times’ account of Cuban cyclist Damian Lopez Alfonso could help Americans regain their faith in a free-market healthcare system.

When he was 13, Lopez was electrocuted while trying to retrieve a kite caught in some power lines. Doctors were able to save his life but not his forearms. His face was also horribly disfigured.

Notwithstanding the loss of both his forearms, Lopez became an avid cyclist. The handlebars on his bicycle have to be turned upwards, which enables him to steer, change gears, and brake with his elbows.

Despite his handicaps, the 34-year-old Lopez has won cycling races at home in Cuba. Next month he’ll compete in a race in Canada, and he hopes to qualify for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

What does all this have to do with restoring Americans’ faith in a free-market healthcare system?

According to the Times, as Lopez’s situation has become increasingly publicized, “riders from as far away as California and Germany have sent money, and companies including Fuji, Shimano and a prosthesis maker, Hanger, have provided state-of-the-art products that will help him ride in the standard position so he can compete at an elite level.”

That’s not all.

When Lopez travelled to New York for medical tests and four months of reconstructive surgery and being fitted for prosthetic arms, New Yorker cyclists “donated their time, money and spare bedrooms to help him in the city…. One rider provided the use of a car service to get Mr. Alfonso around town; another lent him an old iPhone; several have acted as translators on doctor visits; still others have made small cash donations totaling $8,000 to support him during his stay.”

What about Lopez’s medical treatment? Ordinarily it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Guess how much it’s costing him. Nothing! His medical treatment is being provided to him entirely for free.

That is what life is supposed to be all about. That is the spirit of voluntary charity and good will toward others on which America was founded.

Unlike Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, and income taxation, the help provided to Lopez is voluntary. No one goes to jail for refusing to help him. The help that is provided to him is genuine charity given that it comes from the willing hearts of people who want to help.

Sometimes I wonder how many Americans today, especially young people, realize that there was no Medicare and Medicaid — i.e., coerced, government healthcare — for more than 150 years after our nation was founded. People were free to keep everything they earned (they didn’t believe in income taxation either), and they had the freedom to manage their own healthcare (and everything else).

Equally important, prior to Medicare and Medicaid, healthcare costs were reasonably priced, given that the federal government wasn’t involved in the process. Moreover, healthcare prices weren’t soaring every decade as they have been ever since Medicare and Medicaid were enacted.

How did the truly poor get healthcare before Medicare and Medicaid? In the same way that Damian Lopez Alfonso got it — through the voluntary efforts of people who cared, including physicians, hospitals, and donors.

Whenever libertarians bring up the idea of repealing Medicare and Medicaid, what is the all-too-common response of modern-day statists? “Oh, people will die in the streets without socialized healthcare! Nobody except me will help the poor! Who cares if the nation goes bankrupt as long as we have our free healthcare?”

That’s what socialism has done to Americans. It has terribly damaged their faith in themselves, in others, in freedom and free markets, and in God.

But nothing is irreparable, and there is nothing like freedom to restore the deeper spirit of charity that exists within mankind.

When we see the outpouring of help for a man like Damian Lopez Alfonso — a citizen of another country, a communist country whose regime is antagonistic toward the U.S. government — it helps to remind us of that there is nothing to fear from the repeal of Medicare and Medicaid and the restoration of a free-market healthcare system to our land.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.