Freedom Fest 2014: Steve Forbes- We Must Get the Patient in Charge of Health Care Again

Steve Forbes spoke at Freedom Fest this morning about free market solutions to healthcare. The origin of the problems with our health care system, he said, is that the patient is not in charge any more.

He illustrated his point with an analogy about ordering food in a restaurant. A customer does not dine at a restaurant without regard for prices, telling himself the price of an expensive bottle of wine doesn’t matter because the costs will just be picked up by Blue Cross Blue Shield.  In fact, Forbes asked, go ask your doctor how much an appointment or a procedure costs. They will look at you like you are insane.

While talking about the “health care crisis” Forbes noted that historically the free market has turned scarcity into abundance. If the government had an Obama at the time when cell phones first hit the market, they would still be the size of a brick and cost $10k. But instead, the demand for cell phones brought innovation and abundance with numerous options and manufacturers and cell phone companies competing for your business.

Just looking at certain aspects of healthcare, we can see that entrepreneurship has brought abundance.  Clinics like CVS and walk-in clinics have made flu shots widely available. Formerly, people would have to make an appointment to see a doctor for a flu shot but now flu shots are inexpensive and available at gas stations, Forbes joked.

To show that the free market is able to handle life’s essentials he pointed to the food system.  Private industry is able to grow food, deliver food to where it needs to go, and stores sell and compete with each other to get your business and sell the food to consumers.  The audience laughed when he said, if the government tried run all aspects of the agriculture business, we’d all be starving.

Forbes closed by saying the key is that the patient must be the customer.