Healthcare, Free Markets, and Consumer Choice

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ONCE AGAIN, WE ARE PROUD TO BE FIRST TO INFORM YOU ABOUT another major development in the healthcare industry. As you will read here, physician group practices in California are about to undergo a financial meltdown. The ramifications of this will touch healthcare providers in every city around the nation.

If there are widespread financial failures and bankruptcies among private group practices in California, it will not be a proud moment for healthcare. At THE DARK REPORT, our concern is that government will use the California crisis as an opportunity to do even more harm to our system. This will be a bad thing. Historically, free markets are faster and more efficient at providing win-win solutions than government legislators and bureaucrats.

Which leads me to make an important point to our clients and readers. We do not have a free market in healthcare in the United States. A reason- ably pure free market exists in the computer industries. During the last 25 years, we have seen incredible leaps in the performance of computers, at rapidly declining costs. As consumers, it has made the Internet possible. I don’t need to remind you how the Internet is transforming the daily routines of most middle class Americans. This is the free market at its best. We benefit from ever-improving products at ever-declining costs.

Healthcare could be the same way, if the free market was truly allowed to work its magic. But healthcare is saddled with government regulations. Over the years, vested interests have gotten the government to protect their part of the healthcare puzzle. HMOs have a federal exemption from patient lawsuits. Physicians have strict licensure requirements that now impede efforts at telemedicine. Attempts to reform aspects of healthcare regulation meet with resistance by those private enterprises whose vested interests would be harmed.

I believe that the right solution is to get government, and private vested interests, out of the way of those physicians and providers who can offer quality care at competitive prices. If consumers, through programs like Medical Savings Accounts (MSA), were given positive incentives to shop for their healthcare, they would make rational decisions and reward good physicians with their business. Of course, the free market does separate winners from losers rather quickly. But we all benefit from that by getting a better quality product at a lower price. For my nickel, I hope consumer choice is quickly restored to our system of healthcare.


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