In a recent debate with other candidates for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, John Curtis said that we not only have to repeal Obamacare, but we must restructure the whole industry to rely exclusively on the free market. To illustrate his point, he said that elective surgeries such as Lasik are cheap because the free market allows for greater competition that drives down price.

Dr. Kathie Allen, who has decades of experience in the health care market, pointed out that Mayor Curtis’ statement was terribly shortsighted. She said that when patients see the prices for Lasik surgery, they can walk away if it’s too expensive. If your child has a life-threatening illness, on the other hand, all “shopping around” goes right out the window.

The invisible hand doesn’t work so well when you’ve got to go to the hospital every few days for chemotherapy. You’re not reading Yelp reviews or clipping coupons. You’re trying to save the life of your child. And you’re especially not pouring over reviews when you have to rush to the emergency room. In such circumstances, an hour or two of research could mean death.

In short, the health care market is not a normal market. It’s not like buying a book, renovating a kitchen, bathroom or repairing a car, where you can know the exact cost before you commit and can even find ways to wait months before you commit. In a matter of life and death, competition doesn’t work.

Sure, the free market can handle procedures that are both inexpensive and elective, as Dr. Allen acknowledged in the debate. But inexpensive elective procedures are not the problem. They are not emptying bank accounts and destroying lives all over this state. They’re not what people who face real medical trauma are worried about.

I’ve seen firsthand what people actually are worried about. Utah residents — Democrats and Republicans — have seen firsthand how poorly our current system works.

We see the pregnant mom who had complications and needed an emergency C-Section, later getting a bill for over $20,000.

We see the young child with a rare illness who required several surgeries totalling more than $300,000.

We see a young college student at BYU who lost a protracted battle with cancer and left a young wife with hundreds of thousands in medical bills.

These experiences illustrate that the free market simply doesn’t work for lifesaving medical procedures.

It doesn’t matter what your political leanings are. Any of us could get hit with a debilitating medical bill. Sadly, I’ve seen it happen all the time to young people who think they have no need for health insurance.

We’ve seen a sharp rise of GoFundMe accounts asking people to cover their medical bills. Sometimes the news even covers such stories as evidence about how good people are.

But what about all the times the GoFundMe account doesn’t fill up? We have to realize that in such cases, people go bankrupt. So not only do these people lose their loved ones, they also find themselves in crippling debt.

Any citizen of Utah who has had to face such situations — or who knows someone who has — can see just how misguided and offensive the health care views of Mayor Curtis (and President Trump, Rep. Mia Love, Sen. Mike Lee and many others today) are.

If our health care cannot cover the least fortunate among us and people die as a result or are slammed with insurmountable health care bills, we’ve failed our society. We must realize that each of us is one unexpected doctor’s call away from finding ourselves in those same desperate circumstances.

Darlene McDonald is running for Congress in Utah’s 4th District. She works as a technical analyst at a large technology company in Lehi, Utah.