SANTA FE, Texas (AP) - A Southeast Texas woman is facing a felony charge for allegedly delaying hospital treatment of her teenage son's gunshot wound until she researched treatment options online.
And this in a nutshell is why the market cannot function on its own to provide efficient and affordable health care.
Markets only function properly when consumers have the ability and opportunity to make informed comparisons of products, services, and prices. It's not the wisdom of the capitalist that drives innovation but the wisdom of the market—the mass of consumers for whom's dollars the capitalists compete. Without the ability for consumers to make informed purchasing decisions there is no rational competition for products and services, and thus no rational market. And without a rational market to allocate resources, there is no inherent efficiency.
But who is going to shop around for the best health care product at the best price when oneself or one's child is suffering from a high fever, or a kidney stone attack or, say, a gunshot wound? Not only does one not have the luxury of taking the time to shop around for the right deal in the midst of a health care crisis, one might even be prosecuted for behaving like market theories dictate an informed health care consumer should behave. Instead, when faced with unbearable pain or impending death, most of us head to the nearest emergency room, and then deal with the hospital bill as best we can after the fact.
Under those circumstances, there is no market at all. And in that context—with little or no consumer feedback—it is a fantasy to insist that a private health care market can efficiently allocate health care resources.