Ten Benjamin Rush Institute Student Leaders attended the 2015 Free Market Medical Association’s (FMMA) Conference in August. Several wrote posts highlighting a specific speaker or message from the Conference. We hope you enjoy Mr. John Flo’s enthusiastic report on the Price Transparency Movement’s positive ripple effects in healthcare.
The Free Market Medical Association (FMMA) conference this year in Oklahoma City was a good reminder that there can be true David and Goliath stories in healthcare! With the Surgery Center of Oklahoma (SCO) as a perfect example, it is encouraging to see how independent practitioners are able to add incredible value to their patients’ healthcare without being assimilated into a gigantic healthcare institution. For the record, I am not suggesting that large health care institutions are evil or obsolete. I do, however, share a concern with many medical students that after many years of education and hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, I will have to work for an administrator instead of directly for my patients. Practicing under the burden of growing supervision, regulations, and third-party decision-making is “administrative medicine,” not patient-centered medicine.
What Dr. Keith Smith is doing at SCO is quite remarkable, and at the same time, incredibly simple! By publishing bundled costs for specific surgeries online, Dr. Smith is reestablishing a central tenet of free markets—price transparency. It is almost humorous that this idea is causing so much of a disturbance in the medical field. In any other industry, there would be an uprising of cost-conscious consumers if prices were not transparent. Yet in medicine, an industry so important that some believe it is a natural human right, there is complete opacity. Unfortunately, when this fundamental aspect of free markets is suppressed, the consumer—or in this case, the patient—suffers. On the other hand, when people like Dr. Smith preserve that essential aspect of markets, the patient benefits! Due to SCO posting their prices online, other local providers have felt pressure to make their prices transparent as well. This organic competition forces providers to lower prices and enables patients to shop for the highest value. We are actually starting to see consumer-patients in healthcare—the beginnings of a truly free market are forming!