Healthcare Chicken (or, Speaking Out Lowden Clear

April 23rd, 2010

Inspired by Nevada US Senate candidate Sue Lowden’s proposal that Americans barter with their physicians and pay for medical care with chickens. Also check out for chicken heathcare conversion rates, and don’t miss my “Funky Chicken” music video at the end.

America doesn’t need healthcare reform–

Sue Lowden has a better idea.

Her healthcare chicken plan

Will be the Republican panacea.

Sue is one of several Repubs

Running against Harry Reid.

She’s showed herself to be so brilliant

That he might as well concede.

Who said Republicans didn’t have any ideas?

This one proves they do.

Now we know what the GOP’s plan to “repeal and replace”

Will lead us to.

Republicans want to go back to the “olden days”

(Until, of course, the End of Days),

But Sue wants to go all the way back to 5000 BC

When will still had a barter economy.

Of course, if you need an operation, that will cost $100K or more,

Since healthcare now costs a lot more than before.

You could barter for a leaching in the time of Charles Dickens,

But bypass surgery would cost a lot of chickens.

Ms. Lowden, do you think this gaffe might reduce your lead

Over the embattled but chickenless Senator Reid?

I don’t think you’re proposal has turned into a hit.

In fact, it makes you come across like chicken s**t.


Ironically, the absurdity of Lowden’s chicken comments has distracted attention away from the substance of her actual reform proposal, which is (unbelievably) even more absurd than the idea of going back to a barter economy to pay for healthcare.

First, one of Lowden’s basic principal seems to be relying on the kindness of doctors–she even talks in one of her interviews about how doctors are compassionate people, apparently suggesting that society exploit that kindness. As described in The Tree of Liberty (in response to Joyce from Missouri’s comment that her hospital provides unlimited free care (which if true would be highly unusual), It’s great when people go above and beyond the call of duty. But we have to acknowledge that such behavior is the exception rather than the norm, and any system that relies on that is doomed to failure. Communism attempts to do that, assuming that human nature can be perfected, and that people can somehow be taught to act not in their own narrow self interest, but in society’s. Yes, that does happen occasionally, but not enough to base an economic system on (as evidenced by the worldwide downfall of communism as a functioning system). That, in a nutshell, is the genius of capitalism and the free market system: it built on the foundation of individual self-interest, which is why it works so well (as long as regulations are in place to counter the market’s occasional self-destructive tendencies). So with this kindness-of-doctors healthcare chicken proposal, are Sue Lowden and others suggesting that we abandon free-market capitalism for communist principles?

Second, as expressed in her interviews, Lowden seems to view the uninsured’s use of emergency rooms as a good thing. As I’ve discussed before, the exact opposite is true: ER use by uninsured is part of the problem, not part of the solution. It is more expensive than non-ER care, both because of the delivery mechanism and because it allows health problems to get worse and worse before they become acute enough to necessitate ER care, and it reduces the quality of care that other ER patients receive due to ER crowding. Nor is Sue Lowden the only Republican to make this “everything is OK because uninsured can go to the ER for care” argument: many other Republicans made during the healthcare reform debate. And that’s the GOP healthcare reform plan?

Finally (though I’m sure I could find lots more to criticize in her “plan” if I wanted to take the time to do so), Lowden’s idea that the healthcare system’s problems can be solved if we would just further expand Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), since they allow and encourage patients to negotiate for discounts with medical care providers, and discourage over consumption of health services. That is potentially correct and I support HSAs for that reason, but they are not a panacea for the simple reason that healthcare is not a standard free market good: it is impossible for a patient with a critical injury to negotiate with several service providers in order to chose the best and/or cheapest one while on the way to the hospital in an ambulance. Even for elective procedures or standard care for which the consumer has plenty of advance notice, the healthcare consumer suffers from a significant information gap compared to the service provider, which makes it less likely that the consumer will decide he/she doesn’t need the service the doctor recommends (a decision that is much harder to make when your or a loved one’s life is on the line than it is to decide on a long distance service), or to negotiate a better price for it. And even if you the consumer are able to negotiate a better price, do you really want the surgeon who’s getting ready to be operating on you to be thinking about how he/she is getting stiffed on the operation?

So sorry Sue, but I just don’t think your “ideas” will work.

Here’s Countdown’s 4/22/10 report.

Here’s Rachel’s 4/22/10 report of Lowden’s healthcare chicken idea.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Here are The Ed Show’s reports.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Here’s Lowden’s full healthcare chicken interview.

Here’s video from Talking Points Memo featuring Lowden talking about bartering and healthcare savings accounts. On the latter, she incorrectly states that the healthcare reform bill reduced the HSA limits.

Here’s Lowden talking about her ideas (i.e., talking points) for healthcare reform (in particular, her opposition to the public option and individual mandate). I like how John Ralston challenges her. (NB: This interview is from back in October 2009 before the final bill was developed.)

Here’s a ProgressNowNevada spoof of Lowden’s comments.

Here’s Jay Leno mocking Lowden’s bartering scheme.

Here’s a scene from one of my favorite series (and the partial inspiration for our title), Robot Chicken. Sometimes cobbling a bunch of different things together isn’t the best solution…

Here’s your theme music, The Chicken Dance from the Lawrence Welk Show. Can you believe that this used to be the most popular dance in America? Is that the America that Lowden wants us to go back to? (Watch it from the beginning to get the easy instructions on how to do it yourself.)

And here’s our own modest contribution to the Youtube spoofery, Do the Funky Chicken by the great Rufus Thomas, mixed with the intro to Robot Chicken, footage from Lowden’s chicken interview, the ProgressNowNevada spoof, and other chicken related material.

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Posted in Healthcare, Republicans | 2 Comments »

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2 Responses to “Healthcare Chicken (or, Speaking Out Lowden Clear”

  1. Newsericks » Blog Archive » The Chickens Come Home To Roost Says:

    […] Ironically, in spite of her crazy chicken scheme, […]

  2. Newsericks » Blog Archive » Don’t Hate the Mandate (or: My HSA Stroke of Genius) Says:

    […] reform options, and they do have a lot going for them (plus some problems, which you can read Healthcare Chicken to find out more about). But in spite of 8 years of full-out promotion under George W. Bush, they […]

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