There may be reasons for the differences. Maybe one hospital specializes in a particular type of care, for example. But, if you (instead of the government) were actually footing the bill, wouldn’t you want to know that you’d pay one third less at one hospital than you’d pay at another? That simple price information would be, to use one of President Obama’s favorite words, a game-changer for most of us.
This highlights the real problem with ObamaCare. Instead of empowering people to make informed choices about their care by letting them know how much it costs, our new system attempts to hold down costs by having “experts” in Washington set prices for care across the nation.
But those experts can never have enough information or use it as effectively as millions of consumers would.
Big government programs including Social Security, the Post Office and, yes, ObamaCare, “fail because they attempt to substitute a single brain, or a relatively small panel of brains organized into a bureaucracy, for the collective cognitive firepower of millions or billions of people,” Kevin Williamson puts it at National Review. “Put simply, they attempt to manage systems that are too complex for them to understand. Complexity is humbling, but politics is immune to humility.”
Pricing, meanwhile, is simple yet effective. But it doesn’t meaningfully exist in our current system because consumers don’t pay for their care.
There’s still an opening for real reform in our healthcare system. Reform that makes prices transparent and puts consumers in charge of their own health decisions. ObamaCare is pulling us far down the wrong road. But it’s not too late for the power of prices to bring us a better system.