By KIM BELLARD

The Ever Given is free! 

Admit it: you’ve been following the story about the huge container ship stuck in the Suez Canal.  It’s about the size of the Empire State building laid flat, and somehow ended up blocking one of the busiest waterways in the world. 

As serious as this was for global shipping and all of us who depend on it, much hilarity ensued.  Memes exploded, using this as a metaphor for almost everything, healthcare included.  Once there started to be hope for getting the Ever Given free, people started new memes that it should be “put back.” 

Well, I’m a sucker for a funny meme and a good metaphor too.  Our healthcare system is that canal, and we’re the unfortunate ship.  Only it doesn’t look like we’re getting unstuck anytime soon.

The Ever Given got stuck a week ago.  It is one of the world’s largest container ships, but high winds, poor visibility (due to a dust storm), and, perhaps, human error caused things to go sidewise, literally.  It got stuck on the banks.  Over 300 other ships have been blocked as a result; alternative routes add several thousand miles to the trip, making it a tough choice between waiting/hoping and rerouting. 

The Suez Canal carries about 10% of worldwide maritime traffic, worth as much as $10b daily.  It has been around since 1869 – far longer than the similarly important Panama Canal – and has been widened/deepened several times since.  Ships keep getting bigger and bigger, carrying more and more cargo, as globalization has created boom times for shipping (or, rather, shipping created boom times for globalization). 

As the wags at The Atlantic put it, “we’re going to need a smaller boat.” 

As soon as it became evident that the Ever Given wasn’t going to be freed quickly, warnings about the impacts

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