Sunday, November 22, 2009

What a Free Market in Healthcare Looks Like

From the WSJ:

Dr. Shetty, who entered the limelight in the early 1990s as Mother Teresa's cardiac surgeon, offers cutting-edge medical care in India at a fraction of what it costs elsewhere in the world. His flagship heart hospital charges $2,000, on average, for open-heart surgery, compared with hospitals in the U.S. that are paid between $20,000 and $100,000, depending on the complexity of the surgery.

The approach has transformed health care in India through a simple premise that works in other industries: economies of scale. By driving huge volumes, even of procedures as sophisticated, delicate and dangerous as heart surgery, Dr. Shetty has managed to drive down the cost of health care in his nation of one billion...

Mr. Parashivappa says he can't himself pay for the surgery, but it is covered by a farmers' insurance plan that Dr. Shetty began several years ago in partnership with the state of Karnataka, which includes Bangalore.

Nearly one third of the hospital's patients are enrolled in this insurance plan, which costs $3 a year per person and reimburses the hospital $1,200 for each cardiac surgery.

That is about $300 below the hospital's break-even cost of $1,500 per surgery.

The hospital makes up the difference by charging $2,400 to the 40% of its patients in the general ward who aren't enrolled in the plan. An additional 30% who opt for private or semi-private rooms pay as much as $5,000.

You can complain about purchase price parity here. But the costs faced by a private hospital--wages for skilled doctors and medical equipment--are more comparable to US prices.

1 comment:

nazgulnarsil said...

the last paragraph suggests a possible fix doesn't it? value-added services instead of a premium on life saving care.