Health Care Consumerism Is Expanding, and Liberals Won’t Like It One Bit

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One of the primary health policy differences between the left and the right is whether patients can bring value-conscious shopping (i.e., consumerism) to the health care marketplace, as they do in every other segment of the economy.

Conservatives say yes, at least in most cases; liberals adamantly disagree, which is why they think government and bureaucrats—or doctors overseen by government and bureaucrats—must make those decisions for you.

Their standard argument is, “How can someone make price and quality comparisons when they are being rolled into the emergency room?”

But emergency room spending makes up about 2 percent of total health care spending, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians. That leaves a lot of room for consumerism.

Obamacare, being a product of the left, tried to kill health care consumerism by insulating patients from the cost of care even more than they had been. The more insulated people are from the price of health care (or anything, for that matter), the less interest they have in being a value-conscious shopper.

Ironically, Obamacare’s mandates and restrictions have driven up the cost of health insurance, as many of us warned. Health insurers responded by dramatically increasing deductibles, especially in the individual insurance market. That means many patients are more exposed to out-of-pocket costs, which was the exact opposite of what Democrats intended.

In addition, Obamacare never came close to eliminating the uninsured, as promised.

The result is more patients are acting like consumers.

National Public Radio reports that two imaging centers in Atlanta have been offering a heart CT scan, with consultation, on Groupon, which is currently selling for $26. More than 5,000 of the coupons have been sold.

NPR cited a different imaging center that decided it had to make a similar offer because “we saw the competition had it.”

The story quoted the wife of an uninsured patient who took advantage of a similar deal. “I knew that CT scans had such a wide range of costs in a hospital setting. So going in knowing that I could price check and have some idea of how much I’d be paying and a little more control” was better than going to the hospital. 

Hmmm, sounds like a consumer to me. 

As NPR noted, “ultimately, the use of Groupon and other pricing tools is symptomatic of a health care market where patients desperately want a deal—or at least tools that better nail down their costs before they get care.”

Yes, patients can and will be value-conscious health care shoppers—if only the left would give them a chance.

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