Free Market Principles Make The Difference Between Life And Death

In Sonoma County, a man is battling more than a dozen tumors in his body.

Oh, and now he is fighting a different battle, says CBS News, with his insurance carrier, Anthem Blue Cross.

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Obamacare Exchanges Burn Taxpayer Dollars By The Truckload

Remember Cash for Clunkers? That program gave car buyers rebates of up to $4,500 if they traded in less fuel-efficient vehicles for new vehicles with better gas mileage.

But because a lot of the vehicles eligible for the rebate would have sold anyway, taxpayers ended up paying about $24,000 per additional car sale that these incentives produced.

And it looks like Obamacare is in a fierce race to beat Cash for Clunkers to become the poster child for mismanagement of federal taxpayer resources:

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The Free Market Feeds On Red Tape. Garden State Entrepreneurs Launch Startup To Help Docs Transition To “Cash-Only.”

The federal government may believe that the future of healthcare is the Affordable Care Act.

However, a New Jersey entrepreneur has a different vision — one where patients pay out of pocket for just about everything. And they pay a group of doctors and medical practices that are so fed up with the insurance-based system that they are opting to go it alone.

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LISTEN: Atlas.md Podcast, Ep. 13

LISTEN: Atlas.md Podcast, Ep. 13

Happy New Year! The direct care duo starts 2014 with good news and exciting updates. We’re happy to report that we’ve been consulted by Kansas University; in the near future, more students will be getting a glimpse into the world of insurance-free medicine through their curriculum. International pins were placed on the I Want Direct Care map (including clinics and patients in the U.K., Vietnam, Argentina, and more). And a humblebrag warning: we were interviewed by Harvard Business Review, so keep an eye out for that.

LISTEN TO EPISODE 13 OF THE ATLAS MD PODCAST HERE

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The Free Market Can Be A Crazy Place

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Wow. We’re pretty sure that most of our staff, and patients, haven’t bought trackers for their pets’ activity levels. Although, I guess if they really wanted to, they could attach a FitBit to an animal and send us the results via Atlas.md. Either way, a proprietor entered this niche market because they believed some people would buy it. Given the restricted nature of healthcare, it’s nice to be reminded that the free market is still ticking, oddities and all.

Free Market’s Free Reign — Company Succeeds By Making Exercise And Vacation A Priority

Okay, so we’re putting in a caveat right out of the gate — Atlas MD WILL be checking emails during vacations and probably won’t be sending our limited staff to the gym during lunch. However, we do applaud one company that does EXACTLY that.

David Morken is the sparkling Co-founder and CEO of Bandwidth, a 15-year-old tech company. It was his idea to instate these policies: the company has (and enforces) a complete embargo on email to and from the company during vacation. Oh, well how about I just stay at the office all year? Nope. He also forces employees to take their vacations. And don’t forget the 90-minute lunches. They are paid, if you workout, along with your gym membership, shuttle to and from, your personal trainer, and a comprehensive assessment of your physical condition.

So why’s this cool? Well, for starters, Bandwidth was set to make $150M in 2013 – a 20% increase from 2012 – and, get this, they expect $200M in profitable revenues in 2014. So while yes, these policies might seem Draconian, they began with the proprietor and ended up positively influencing his staff, their work, and his bottom line. And no one in the White House told him how to do his job.

READ FORBES’ COVERAGE OF BANDWIDTH CEO DAVID MORKEN

The Moral Hazard Of American Healthcare

John F. Hunt, MD writes on Kevin MD, “If you learn nothing else today, I would ask you to learn that moral hazard is the cause of medical price hyperinflation.” His is a controversial post, meant to elicit click-through with the title, “The cheapest form of health care is to let sick people die.”

Obviously, Dr. Hunt doesn’t want anyone to die. However, his argument is that so long as it’s the government’s obligation to take care of people, prices will skyrocket. This is due in part to the inherent moral hazard. He explains, “Moral hazard is when the person who bears the economic burden of a decision is not the decision maker.” In healthcare, the moral hazard is a third party payer (insurance/government) bearing the economic consequences of a patient’s decision.

Dr. Hunt makes an excellent point. When there’s moral hazard, the patient cares less about drug and procedure cost, and what doctors charge. As a result, he says, prices rise when the “buyer” doesn’t care about these costs. He compares this to teens given no-reins access to their parents’ credit card. “[Then] if everyone in America let their teenage daughters go shopping for clothes… the prices would skyrocket.”

He explains the catch-22 in play here. So long as the government/insurance are responsible for payment, the actual prices of services will be hyper-inflated. The only way to break this cycle is to make the patient the person who bears full financial responsibility. The problem is that we as a populace need to make that leap of faith. Direct care patients are doing this. Direct care docs are doing this. The question is when will everyone be doing this? Only then will we see prices return to realistic levels. Seriously, the out-of-pocket cost of an ambulance trip alone would break most Americans’ banks.

READ DR. HUNT’S BLOG POST ON KEVIN MD