Bioethics Blogs

Why Buying A Car Is So Unlike Buying Healthcare

Let’s say you are looking to buy a car. You think you might
want to buy a Volvo so you go down to the Volvo dealer and check out the new
models. But you are shocked by what you see. You realize that you really don’t
need to spend $35 to $40,000, or more, on a new car, so you decide to visit the
Subaru dealer. There you find very nice alternative models for thousands of
dollars less. You are delighted to have a new Outback for about $27,000.

The above story is how private markets and market choices
work for the vast majority of items that we purchase to meet most of our needs
as human beings. However, it has become painfully obvious that healthcare is an
area where the normal model of markets and market choices do not apply. I’ll
use a personal example.

A little over 15 years ago, I was diagnosed with colon
cancer, which left me scared and shocked, especially for someone who has no
family history of this disease and who had always exercised regularly and
maintained a healthy diet. I gladly agreed to aggressively use the most
effective technology, medications, and surgical procedures to deal with my
condition; and I never once thought of whether my treatments cost too much
money or whether I could get a better deal at another hospital. Shopping around
for a lower price on my treatments would have been simply preposterous for me
to consider at such a time. In due course I started getting statements of the
medical costs in the mail associated with my treatment from my provider, most
of which I did not have to pay because my insurance covered it.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.