Why Health Care Markets Can Never Work

Published on Dissident Voice, by Dabid Spero, March 26, 2011.

… Markets are good for things like cars. The buyer looks for what he wants. When he finds something close, the seller makes an offer and the buyer decides whether the price is acceptable. Eventually they agree on a price, or they don’t, in which case there’s no sale.

But healthcare is completely different. The sellers are in control. They’re steering purchase decisions. With or without “health care reform,” it makes no difference. Prices will keep going up; unnecessary services will keep proliferating. Individuals, companies, and governments will continue to be bankrupted. Millions will be denied care for lack of funding. And free market advocates will keep saying the market is the answer to our healthcare crisis. 

Our society can decide that everyone is entitled to appropriate medical care, or not. But we can’t provide care to any except the very rich under this topsy-turvy anti-system. Costs will continue to spiral if sellers set the prices and make the purchasing decisions. Eventually we will run out of money, and eventually came about twenty years ago in the US. We’ve been paying medical bills on credit ever since.

A sellers’ market can’t control costs. Instead, costs should be controlled, as they are in Europe, with rational, evidence-based decisions on what treatments are effective and affordable, and what they should cost. Of course, such a system will be open to corruption and abuse, but, unlike the present system, at least we would have a chance to do things rationally.

Alternatively, we can deny care to ever-larger sections of the population who can’t pay the escalating prices. Either way, we should stop pretending that the ultimate seller’s market will fix itself. It can’t. (full text).

: Facing housing crisis, Saudi Arabia sets up ministry, on World Bulletin, by Reuters, March 25, 2011.

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