Everyone wants to be healthy. Everyone wants quality health care when it is needed. Everyone wants that care to be at a fair price. That last one is the challenge that has animated so much discussion and legislation in recent years.
Many will try to blame our health care system woes on the Affordable Care Act. It did not cause our problems. They preexisted the ACA and are part of the reasons it was passed. The ACA however isn’t really a solution either. It is just a continuation of the bad policies that spring from the false idea that the government can distort and meddle in health care markets to produce good outcomes. No matter how they are dressed up the market interventions tend to be about supporting corporate welfare and passing tax payer money on to crony industries.
The mantra we continually hear is “coverage.” Coverage however is not our problem. Coverage does not equate to access, certainly not in a meaningful way. Plenty of people right now have “coverage” that didn’t before but they still can’t afford to get care due to high premiums, co-pays, and deductibles.
The real problem we face is price, not coverage. You won’t see that discussed by D.C. policy makers, insurance companies, hospital systems, and special interests that much. They thrive on the mucked-up system with bloated fake pricing designed to extract as much money from you as possible. You might think that the insurance companies would want lower costs, too, but there are perverse incentives that make more money for much of the industry if your costs to go up. Many economically ignorant talking heads even loudly proclaim that we have a market failure, but what we really have is the absence of honest and transparent markets. These problems have been created bit by bit, over many decades, and they have been obscenely profitable to the insiders and cronies. Those benefiting at the public’s expense won’t be looking for any kind of real solutions that would put a stop to their gravy train.
But, thankfully, there are an increasing number of solutions becoming available. I was recently at a conference of physicians, service providers, and self-funded employers in Oklahoma City that are looking for honest care and pricing. From surgeries like knee and hip replacements to regular primary care, some physicians and other health care businesses are paving the way with real solutions. They are doing it by returning to doctor-patient relationships and getting third-parties (insurance, politicians, etc…) out of the way.
Individuals and businesses are increasingly giving up on the scam that is “health insurance.” As costs spiral out of control families are finding options like cooperatives called “cost sharing ministries.” Employers more and more often are choosing to “self-fund” where they pay for their employees care out of pocket so that they can save money and actually get better care. Bureaucracy, regulations, and paper work are driving more and more physicians to open up direct primary care practices that allow them to focus on their patients instead of the labyrinth that is insurance coding and billing. The price transparency that is encouraged by free market driven care allows for patients and businesses to shop, compare, and compete to get the best care for the best prices.
What does such honest transparent pricing look like? It looks like a $15,499 all-inclusive price tag on a total knee replacement instead of the hospital average of $57,000. Of course, in most cases you can’t even get the hospital pricing before the surgery. Just wait on the bill and enjoy the surprise. It looks like MRIs for $350500 instead of $2,000-$3,000. Just this morning I was able to arrange an MRI for a client for $397 where he was expecting to pay over $1,000 out of pocket. How would you like to have access to a primary care physician for $50-125 per month where they don’t charge you $100 for a lab that should cost $15?We are seeing more direct primary care practices open up across the U.S., including Oklahoma, and I hope to see some developed right here in our community.
At the free market health care conference I attended, Dr. Yuri Maltsev, an economist and former Mikhail Gorbachev cabinet member, quoted Gorbachev saying, “It’s not that central planning doesn’t work. It’s just that we haven’t found a plan that works.” This is, of course, the mindset we keep seeing come out of D.C. and why we keep seeing these bad plans and interventions. We need to recognize that the government and D.C. cronies can not provide the solutions we need for our health care. They have been the source of our problems and can only make them worse as they continue to try to centrally plan our care.
We need to stay focused on the real issue that underlies our problems: the cost of care. As willing buyers and sellers of care are allowed to come together, they are creating solutions that will have long-term positive changes for our health care system. To the degree we can, we must take control of our own care.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctors about free market style options, even if you have insurance. Physicians are often as trapped by this system as you. Many would love to get back to focusing on you without insurance shenanigans but making that change can be a very scary step. Letting them know of your interest could be the encouragement they need to step out and set themselves free to better serve you and your family.
DR. SHANNON GRIMES IS CHAIR OF THE CHEROKEE COUNTY LIBERTARIAN PARTY.
[Editor’s Note: Dr. Grimes is on the board for R3publicans and is a former Cherokee County Chair for the Republican Party. He has been a grassroots activist for life and liberty for many years. This article first ran in the Tahlequah Daily Press here. We have the author’s permission to reprint in it’s entirety. The free market works if we would only give it a try!/sc]
Special thanks to Shelli Dawdy of Grassroots in Nebraska for the featured graphic on this post.