Innovate to Cut Health Costs: LA Times opinion piece

Shirley Svorny, a professor of economics at Cal State Northridge, writes today in a LA Times opinion piece that we do not hear enough in the health care debate about what she calls the only good option: Using innovation to make healthcare cheaper and more accessible.

Svaorny writes that one of the reasons healthcare costs are growing is that lobbyists for medical professionals and hospitals use such laws to protect their members from competition. If they keep blocking cost-saving innovations, she says, the public will get so frustrated with the high cost of care that they will demand universal healthcare.

Citing the success of retail clinics across the country, Svaorny says that we have gotten a glimpse of what innovation can do for patients.

“Those ‘convenience clinics’ are popping up in CVS pharmacies, at Wal-Mart and Target. Wal-Mart’s new retail clinics will be “co-branded” with local hospitals. Staffed by nurse practitioners, convenience clinics provide routine care at affordable prices. (You don’t need an MD to diagnose pink eye or an ear infection.)”

Retail clinics are only the first step, says Svaorny, whose hope is that the increased access and reduced costs will quickly become evident and will build support for additional innovations — and the deregulatory policies necessary to make them possible.

The bottom Line:

“Universal coverage sounds appealing, but it means government will be running the trains. Here and abroad, government does not have a good record when it comes to access, oversight or innovation.

Before we give up on free markets, let’s actually give them a shot.”

What do you think? With the recent efforts to save the financial markets from what some call the results of deregulation, is  is this a time to bring free markets to health care? Post a comment.

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