Reviving the Lodge Model

[Note: This piece was originally written as a letter to the editor of the New York Times in reply to its “Invitation to a Dialogue” on alternative therapies.]

As Dr. Gordon notes, legislation ostensibly aimed at increasing the affordability of health care has had the effects of locking in a status quo of needlessly high levels of costly treatment required to receive any health care and of crowding out self-help and innovations in lower-cost methods. This will be the inevitable result as long as the necessity of subsidizing the capital-intensive, mass-production model of delivery of uniform service by a favored professional elite to passive recipients is assumed necessary to guarantee a modern standard of quality.

Historian David T. Beito notes that the lodge practice system which provided low-cost health care to the members of early twentieth century fraternal societies “opened up rare opportunities for many working-class Americans to compare and experiment and empowered them with the necessary economic clout to break free from the confining view that health care was merely a generic good.” A modernized revival of the lodge model of cooperative, nonprofit provision of basic health care, along the lines of the Ithaca Health Alliance, would avoid the perverse effects of the current mass-industrial model.

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