Forget Top-Down Overhaul of Health Care, How About the Government Just Gets Out of the Way?
In the midst of all the talk about a top-down overhaul and reworking of the health-care industry, supposedly to fix the failures of the private sector, two new studies show that the private sector could do a better job of reform if government would just get out of the way. Time Magazine features two Rand Corporation reports on the rise of a new phenomenon, retail health clinics, and the impact that price awareness and competition have on the market. The studies focused on my state, Minnesota, which prides itself on health-care public policy – but private-sector care wins out.
Instead of hiding behind insurance co-pays, the clinics offer pricing up front to consumers, so that they can decide for themselves what to “buy” and how much they want to pay for service. This is the same mechanism that works to keep prices down and supply consistent in other areas of health care that insurance plans do not traditionally cover. For instance, cosmetic surgery and Lasik rely entirely on consumer compensation. There are no third-party payers to get in the way of rationally allocating resources to demand. In those markets, producers and consumers find each other in the normal manner, advertising, discounts, and price competition, and the market attracts new providers when scarcity appears and prices rise.
If we want to reform care, bend the cost curve downward, and promote supply in the health-care industry, we need to learn the lesson from retail health clinics. The top-down reform proposed by Congress threatens to stop real reform and amplify everything that's currently wrong with the system.
Thanks to Wright Truesdell