“Competition drives improvements in efficiency and effectiveness, offering consumers higher quality goods and services at lower cost. It can have the same effect in the health care system, if given the chance to work.”– Mitt Romney
Creating “robust competition” is at the core of Mitt Romney’s approach to Health Care Reform. He would be right–if health care were commodity like any other. In many industries when more sellers compete for customers, prices come down. Think of thin-screen TVs. But the healthcare market is not like other markets, as a great many health care economists have explained.
When it comes to medical care, the consumer does not have the leverage that he enjoys in other markets because there is too much uncertainty about a) what he needs, and b) the value of what is, in the end, a very complicated product.
First, consider his needs: Should he purchase an expensive, comprehensive policy with no caps on annual or lifetime payouts? If he has a big family, he knows he needs a big car. But he has no way of knowing whether he, his spouse or one of his children will develop cancer, MS., Alzheimer’s or be in an accident that leaves one of them paralyzed for life. So there is no way that a savvy consumer can bring down insurance prices by shopping for the “least expensive policy that fits his needs.”