Is a free market in health care out of the question?

At truthinhealthcare.org, we’ve often argued that health care is not a free market, but that it ought to act more like a free market than it currently does. Now comes an organization, Free Market Medical Association (FFMA), that is working to make that happen.

With 18 chapters, primarily in the eastern half of the U.S., the FMMA attempts to foster the notion—somehow strange in health care—that you should know the price before you buy. FFMA matches patients or employers wishing to make health care decisions based on cost as well as quality, with sellers willing to provide up-front, bundled, cost-efficient care.

The FFMA assists a wide variety of health care players:

  • Patients seeking free market doctors.
  • Free market physicians growing their practices.
  • Facilities trying to run their businesses like a business.
  • Business owners who wish to provide more affordable care for their employees.

The common element in all of these efforts is transparent pricing. And Ground Zero for the effort seems to be Oklahoma City. In recent years, Oklahoma has become a “medical tourism” destination, with patients traveling long distances, often at their employers’ expense, to receive care at an agreed-upon price—something they can’t get wherever they came from.

Like many good ideas in health care, a free market health care system is a slow-moving one. At the same time, it’s an increasingly appealing one for many patients, physicians and employers. Here’s Dr. Richard Kube, of Prairie Spine & Pain Institute in Peoria, IL:

‘What’s in it for me is I get to practice medicine the way I want which is focused upon the patient/physician relationship, and I get to run my practice … like a business would work,’ he says. ‘I don’t have 50 other outside people to compensate or 50 other arbitrary metrics to meet. It boils down to what do you as a patient/consumer need and how can I make that happen for you.’

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