How Free Markets Advance Health Care

By Jeffrey I. Barke:

My brother Ron is an eye surgeon in Dallas, Texas. He performs a wide variety of procedures including “Lasix.” This type of vision correction surgery was discovered by accident in 1974 in Russia. There, a prominent eye surgeon was treating a severely nearsighted boy with shards of glass stuck in his eye.

A sliver had penetrated the boy’s cornea — the clear tissue that forms a protective layer over the eye itself. Rather than the injury impairing his vision, the boy noticed a vast improvement. The glass had actually reshaped the cornea and changed the focus of the child’s eye.

A few American doctors became aware of the Russian discovery and began their own research. Eventually, LASIK vision correction procedures came into wide use when the scalpel was replaced with the cutting precision produced by a beam of focused light — the laser.

Over the years there have been further advances in vision correction surgery techniques as the cost has been steadily reduced. I believe this has occurred, in part, because vision correction surgery is not covered by medical health insurance. Without the restrictions usually imposed by insurance companies and government regulations on medical procedures, competition and consumer demand have improved the quality of this procedure.

There are many other examples of improvements driven and developed by free markets in healthcare fields: Breast augmentation and rhinoplasty, weight loss surgery, dental implants and teeth whitening to name just a few. Even the advent of concierge primary care — the area where I practice medicine — was created out of patient demand to escape crowded groups practices in order to have a closer relationship with a doctor — even if it meant at higher cost.

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