[Ed. Note: On March 21, 2017, The Indiana Star ran an article by Dr. Richard Feldman on healthcare economics. Dr. Feldman is an Indianapolis family physician and former Indiana health commissioner. In Part I, Trenton Schmale, DO, rebuts Dr. Feldman’s article with the history of American healthcare’s evolution. Here in Part II, Dr. Schmale demonstrates how free market principles will work in healthcare, when given the chance.]
How are free market models solving our healthcare problems?
Free market solutions to the problems of increasing healthcare costs, lack of price transparency, and diminishing insurance coverage already exist. Medical pricing transparency is increasing, and patients armed with this knowledge are advocating for themselves at local medical services, including hospitals. The Surgery Center of Oklahoma lists each surgery’s cost up front. Direct Primary Care (DPC) clinics, like Westfield Premier Physicians provide patients the choice of quality, affordable, convenient primary care in a monthly, quarterly, or annual care package. Northwest Radiology and Any Lab Test Now imaging and lab centers post prices online so patients can shop around for services. Even in a traditional hospital setting, patients who plan to pay in cash or still need to meet their high deductible can compare prices between places like the Surgery Center of Oklahoma and their local hospital. Increasingly, hospitals are reducing their prices at patients’ requests, rather than lose business to another facility. DPC and free market models are generating competition while lowering costs and increasing quality.
The free market also offers solutions to these issues via the health insurance market. For example, patients can join a healthcare sharing ministry like Liberty HealthShare, MediShare or Samaritan Ministries, instead of paying for traditional health insurance. Consumers should be free to customize their health insurance plans to cover what they actually need, which can reduce monthly premiums, raise or lower deductibles, etc., and insurance companies should be allowed to compete across state lines.
“As this wave of free market healthcare solutions emerges, it is important to make sure the government stays out of the way. The free market does work in healthcare if given the chance.” ~Trenton Schmale, DO, BRI chapter founder & past president Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine
Bypassing traditional health insurance altogether and utilizing a free market coverage model protects patients when needing both acute care and more routine or specialized care—because they would be empowered to carry insurance coverage for scenarios that fits them best.
Where are free market healthcare models working?
The free market is already demonstrating effective alternatives! Just look to healthcare areas where insurance is not normally taken: LASIK eye surgery, cosmetic procedures, infertility treatments, etc. These are fields that have been innovating and improving their procedures, tools, and treatments drastically; all while prices have generally been trending downward. These same trends are seen in DPC, cash-only practices and surgery centers.
States like Oklahoma, Washington, and North Carolina are starting to send state employees and Medicaid patients to cash only practices, saving their states millions of dollars in the process. Other states like Michigan and Florida are toying with the idea as well. How is this happening? Patients are more aware of what they are spending their money on. Patients want the best quality for the best price, and if medical businesses want to stay in business they need to be responding to these trends.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats will provide the solutions we badly need. Democrats continue the decades-long argument for government healthcare even while it fails; Republican “solutions” tend to focus on consumerism, competition, and the fallacy that their policies reduce government regulation.
As this wave of free market healthcare solutions emerges, it is important to make sure the government stays out of the way. The free market does work in healthcare if given the chance.