Why Isn’t Healthcare Part of the Free Market?

Consumer choice is a cornerstone of the US economy, providing the ability to select how and where you spend your money to meet your needs while encouraging healthy competition in the marketplace.

Your power to choose where you buy your groceries, gas, books, and clothes forces companies to compete for your business, generally keeping costs lower and quality higher.

Companies compete for more than just your dollars; they also compete for the employees who serve you. Knowing that employees have the option to leave for greener pastures encourages companies to tend to their own pastures with a little more care.

It’s an entire ecosystem fueled by the power of choice. But somehow, healthcare got left out.

The Lack of Choice in Healthcare

Over the last several decades, healthcare has drifted further and further from this free market ideal. When it comes to healthcare—the single largest and most universal expense, impacting families and budgets more than any other factor—patients have fewer and fewer options and rapidly increasing costs.

Meanwhile, the doctors who serve them see their own options shrinking as they become trapped by non-compete agreements that place limits on where they can practice if they ever choose to leave.

Isn’t it strange that employees in most other industries are free to move from company to company at their own discretion, while a doctor working for a hospital system or corporate practice doesn’t have the same option? Or that, if the doctor does choose to leave, he/she will likely have to leave the area in order to continue practicing medicine (and thus leave their community of patients behind)?

The Undeniable Cost of Limiting Healthcare Options

The impact is predictable, as it would be in any industry that removes choice from the equation: higher costs and lower quality. Unlike many other industries, however, healthcare is one that our lives depend on.

We simply cannot afford to let the power of choice further evaporate from healthcare. It’s time to open the door for physicians and families to gain more control. Doctors deserve to choose where they practice, what services they offer, and who they serve. Patients deserve to choose where they receive their care, and who provides it.

The new result? Better medicine.

What’s been your experience with the lack of choice in healthcare? How have you seen the impact of non-compete agreements and limited options?