What if health care was more like the auto insurance market?

In a recent Star Tribune letter, Dr. John Dryer of Maple Grove tried to argue against free-market health care reform but he unwittingly illustrated one of the main problems with the American health care system.

Dryer was responding to a previous Start Tribune letter by Kyle Christensen that opposed state mandates and argued that “the best way to help individuals buy health insurance is to reduce the cost of it.”  Dryer’s response was that taking his point “to its logical conclusion, the state should drop the requirement that car drivers carry insurance.”

Car insurance is relatively affordable because the power of competition and choice is allowed to work in that market and consumers can choose coverage from numerous providers from across the country.  Yes, there are some minimum liability requirements but there are no state mandates that every clunker must purchase full repair and replacement coverage.

The health care market would be a very different and affordable place if consumers were given the freedom to just purchase the catastrophic coverage that they need and desire.

Consumer knowledge of prices is another key requirement for a functioning free market.  A good op-ed in Thursday’s Star Tribune (Lifting the veil on all-too-hidden medical costs) detailed the gross lack of price transparency in our current health care networks and made the case that things are unlikely to change until consumers demand it.  It also gave some useful websites to help determine if what you are being charged for drugs or common medical procedures is fair or way above average:  GoodRX.com, LowestMed.com, FairHealthConsumer.org, and HealthCareBlueBook.com.

Peter Zeller is Director of Operations at Center of the American Experiment.