Guest Commentary by Jodi Carroll, President of Votefacts.org
“Health-care economics tells us it’s unlikely that a single-payer healthcare system, a model in which the government pays for all healthcare costs, can efficiently and effectively deliver quality care in an affordable manner,” states Naomi Lopez-Bauman, Director of Healthcare Policy for the Illinois Policy Institute, an independent research organization. “Overreaching, one-size-fits-all, bureaucratic approaches to healthcare reform are doomed to fail. Solutions that put patients in charge of prioritizing their own needs and preferences should be the starting point of any healthcare reform.”
Proponents of government-run healthcare claim that typical market forces, such as competition and price transparency, somehow perform differently when related to healthcare policy; and, therefore, cannot be successfully applied on a large-scale. Despite that narrative, there is a burgeoning free-market healthcare system in America. And, it is proving those claims to be patently false.
The free-market healthcare model that is being put into practice is most commonly self-funded care, which requires no insurance. The practice has been steadily evolving into a system that is accessible at almost any income level. Today, many free-market practices are able to offer an affordable healthcare option to those who are uninsured, sick and high-risk.
Additionally, this free-market healthcare solution, commonly referred to as Direct Primary Care (DPC), is expanding well-beyond primary care. Dr. Lee Gross is a co-founder of Epiphany Health, a DPC facility in southern Florida. Dr. Gross tells the story of a patient with Rheumatoid Arthritis. This particular woman was facing $1,800 in lab fees alone for treatment through the traditional payment system. Fortunately, she was able to get her care through Epiphany Health. The Direct Primary Care facility brought the price down to $85.00 for the same lab work. According to Dr. Gross, “In one trip to the lab, she saved enough to pay for two years of membership and now she can afford to treat her rheumatoid.” He says a big reason for the significant cost reduction offered under the free-market model is that 100% of the healthcare dollars actually go toward healthcare, rather than going to subsidize the billing process.
In another example, Dr. Brian Forrest of Access Healthcare in North Carolina, told KevinMD, a networking website for those in the healthcare industry, that one of their patients spent $5,000 through their insurance while seeking treatment for diabetes. Through his direct pay practice, however, she only spent $450 for an entire year’s worth of healthcare. It is also important to note that her diabetes was better managed under the care of a free-market physician. Like Epiphany, Access Healthcare is able to offer equitable service at a remarkably lower cost through a variety of determinants, which include eliminating the overhead that is implicit when going through a medical insurance company’s billing process, as well as by working in agreement with specialists who are willing to discount their services for an up-front payment.
This free-market concept is taking hold as an option for major medical procedures, including surgeries, hospitalizations and other specialty care. For example, anesthesiologists Dr. Keith Smith and Dr. Steve Lantier of Oklahoma City left practices that relied on traditional medical insurance 17 years ago, because they realized there was a better way to deliver service. The physicians purchased a surgery center with the explicit intent of providing high quality, affordable care with transparent pricing. Their facility, the Surgery Center of Oklahoma (SCO), has attracted the interest of many of their surgical colleagues who saw that patients benefitted from Smith and Lantier’s streamlined, free-market approach to providing care. Many have since joined them at the Surgery Center of Oklahoma.
Today, the SCO offers nearly 200 surgical procedures. Each procedure is priced openly online, including a hernia repair for $3,200 that typically bills closer to $30,000 in a traditional corporate hospital. The center sees people regularly choose to pay $5,000 outright for a mastectomy at SCO, instead of using their insurance, under which they would pay a $5,000 deductible and 20% of all billing costs after their deductible is met. In some cases, a patient’s employers will even pick up some or all of the cost of a treatment. Many companies are finding that it is more cost effective to pay directly for their employee’s healthcare rather than pay insurance companies for the policies.
What is exciting is that this the free-market model appears to be spreading. Dr. Smith’s practice is no longer the only free market provider in the area. Oklahoma City now provides residents with a free market spine hospital, an inpatient orthopedic hospital doing total joint replacements, and a chemotherapy facility. Deaconess Hospital is a full service hospital in the area that has chosen to transition to a free market model as well. If one of Dr. Smith’s patients needs a procedure that is not appropriate in an outpatient setting, he is able to work directly with Deaconess to outsource the procedure. The hospital is always quick to respond to his requests. In fact, Dr. Smith says, “The whole idea that a big hospital cannot be transparent and up-front with pricing… that argument is gone. It’s happening and it’s happening right now, here in Oklahoma City. The idea that the free market does not apply to healthcare… I think that cat’s out of the bag. And there aren’t any services that cannot be priced. The market is always at work, but it has been thwarted at every turn by big business buying favors from their political advocates in Washington.”
As it turns out, health care becomes affordable, and a lot easier to navigate, when you remove the complicating factors. The free-market system is growing and proving successful in providing excellent and cost-effective care to patients.
It is universally agreed that a decent quality of life depends on having access to quality healthcare. For this reason, moving to a government-run system is absolutely the wrong choice for everyone – regardless of their income level, age, race or medical history. The competitive services and streamlined costs offered by free-market healthcare models should be included in public policy discussions as a viable option for those seeking quality care.
About The Author
Jodi Carroll is the founder of VoteFacts.org, a website that publishes the facts behind the political spin. Votefacts.org also serves as a watchdog organization, holding media and politicians accountable to the data and details of their votes. A former critical care nurse, Jodi is actively involved in health policy and voter advocacy. She has held the position of National Alliance Co-Chair for the free-market healthcare advocacy organization ‘Docs 4 Patient Care.’ Additionally, Carroll is a participant in ‘Doc Squads,’ an organization assisting free-market medical practices with media relations. Jodi appeared in national commercials for the Romney campaign during the 2012 Presidential Election. A resident of Winfield, Jodi is also a wife and mother of seven-year-old triplets.