Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Health Care Competition

John Stossel:
Health-care costs overall have been rising faster than inflation, but not all medical costs are skyrocketing. In a few pockets of medicine, costs are down while quality is up.
What are those few pockets?

The areas of medical care and services that are not covered by insurance, i.e. plastic surgery and laser eye surgery among them. It funny how much doctors who don't rely on government subsidies or insurance payments really do try to help their patients. While Stossel, of course, can only profile a couple of doctors, he does well with his choices. When government and insurance companies are kept away from the transaction, good new things happen. He writes:
A doctor in Tennessee I talked to publishes his low prices, such as $40 for an office visit. can't make money this way. But Dr. Robert Berry told me you can. "Last year, I made about the average of what a primary-care physician makes in this country," he said.

Berry doesn't accept insurance. That saves him money because he doesn't have to hire a staff to process insurance claims, and he never has to fight with companies to get paid.

His mostly uninsured patients save money, too. Unlike doctors trapped in the insurance maze, Berry works with his patients to find ways to save them money.

"It's coming out of their pockets. And they're afraid. They don't know how much it's going to cost. So I can tell them, 'OK, you have heartburn. Let's start out with generic Zantac, which costs around five dollars a month.'" When his patients ask about expensive prescription medicines they see advertised on television, he tells them, "They're great medicines, but why don't you try this one first and see if it works?"

Sometimes the $4 pills from Wal-Mart are just as good as the $100 ones.

Speaking of Wal-Mart, medical clinics are popping up in Wal-Mart stores and in other similar markets. The clinics offer people with simple problems like sore throats and ear infections relatively hassle-free care cheap. Almost everything costs $59 or less. And the clinics are typically open seven days a week.
It really is as simple as market economics. The demand for health care is there, we know that it is. There is a vast supply of health care avaialable, perhaps too much. So market forces say that prices should go down. However, they don' because of government and insurance company intervention. But when those two forces are absent, the market works, just like it should.
When consumers pay for medicine themselves, saving insurance for the big things, and doctors deal directly with consumers, doctors begin to compete. They start posting prices and work to keep them low.

And consumers gain more control of their health care. Instead of governments and insurance companies deciding for patients, patients decide.

Competition gives consumers more choices. And choice gives them power. Remember that when you hear a politician promise to make health case accessible and affordable through the force of government.
Health care is not a right and there is no need for government intervention beyond being a market player as an insurance agency. If consumer paid for routine care out of their own pocket and saved insurance for the big things, like a long term illness or a surgery, then you see costs go down.

Tell that to the Presidential candidates.

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