Why Healthcare Cannot Be a Completely Free Market

The concept of supply and demand is the cornerstone of economic theory. For simple commodities, the theory predicts that the demand for a product decreases as the price of the product increases and consumers are unwilling to pay the higher price. The supply increases as the price increases and suppliers increase production to capture increased profits. The actual price of the product is a compromise between the desires of consumers and the acumen of suppliers.

Tutorial on the Regulation of the Pharmaceutical Industry

The pharmaceutical market place is not entirely a free market. The extreme demand for lifesaving products can make standard economic assumptions inoperable. Therefore, regulatory mechanisms have emerged to protect patients and to provide patients access to affordable medications. There are three aspects of pharmaceutical operations in the U.S. that are regulated by the government:

Two Visions for Healthcare

It is clear that the U.S. cannot continue its current course in which healthcare costs are more than 17% of GDP and outcomes are significantly behind the rest of the world. It is also clear that Americans are an optimistic people with a firm belief in the idea of progress, which manifests itself in technological and business innovation. The two visions for healthcare that were presented at the Forbes Healthcare Summit are almost caricatures, however. There is opportunity for creative individuals and institutions. Technology has not been applied evenly in healthcare. While the U.S. can be proud of its innovations in high-technology procedures, its adoption of information technology is not even at the level of the pizza industry. Both visions emerged as a result of economic incentives, one to increase revenue, as was the case in Texas, and one to reduce costs, as was the case in upstate New York. The question now is how do we shift the incentives to create the proper mix of outcomes, cost, and risk?

How is healthcare different from a commodity?

“How is healthcare different from a commodity?” may be as enigmatic as Caroll’s riddle from Alice in Wonderland, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Lewis Carroll did not posit an answer to the riddle, but many people have suggested answers. My favorite may be, “Because neither one can ride a bicycle.” Because healthcare in the U.S. costs more than 17% of GDP and health outcomes lag behind other industrial countries, the answer to the healthcare question may need to be less frivolous than the answer to the raven question.