Health care is different

Some sentences I agree with:

  • Health care markets and the airline industry both have barriers to entry. The former requires special licenses, the latter requires considerable capital and regulatory compliance.
  • Trust in one’s doctor is important, as is trust in one’s lawyer.
  • Information assymetries exist in health care as in auto repair. Your mechanic (doctor) knows more about your car (your internal organs) than you do.
  • Health services and health insurance products are differentiated and complex, as are other products like cell phones or personal computers.
  • Health professionals want a good income, as do those in other fields.

Every single way one can characterize health care services, insurance, or markets, one can find another product, service, or market that is similar in that way. But, how many other products, services, or markets, possess every feature of health care that contributes to its failure as a market or the cost problems associated with it? Moreover, how many do so to the same degree? Lastly, how many also involve life and death decisions?

There are reasons health care costs are hard to control. Some of them can be addressed, at least in part, by changes that would make health care markets more like those of other industries. Some of them can’t. Except in very rare cases, make a mistake with your choice of airline, lawyer, auto mechanic, or cell phone and you’ll be inconvenienced for a time, until you switch products or practitioners. Much less rarely, make a mistake with your health care and you could pay for it for or with your life.

Health care is different. (See also “Like a breath of fresh air.”)

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