What Does a “Free Market” in Health Care Look Like? Here’s an Example

Kelsey Harris /

Dr. Craig Beyer

Dr. Craig Beyer

Conservatives often talk about the importance of a free market to improve health care quality and lower costs. What would it look like? An example could be found in the development of LASIK surgery.

Dr. Craig Beyer, a practicing ophthalmologist and LASIK surgeon, was part of the team that performed the world’s first laser vision correction procedure and was one of the first to perform experimental LASIK surgery in 1988. Since then, he’s seen the quality of LASIK improve without the price dramatically increasing. He says this is because ophthalmology functions like the free market.

“LASIK is a transparent procedure,” Beyer said. “You don’t have the layers and layers of bureaucracy that a third-party payment system requires.”

Beyer said his patients know exactly what they want and what it should cost. The free-market system allows for competition and allows people to shop around to make sure they get the surgeon and experience they want.

Beyer’s positive experience in the LASIK industry helps frame his arguments against Obamacare — a system he feels is “dysfunctional.” He fears Obamacare will harm the doctor-patient relationship and decrease the incentive for quality health care. People will go to the doctor and be treated like a number because physicians will only be thinking, “What diagnosis code fits this patient, and how do I get paid for it?” Beyer said.

He’s also concerned that Obamacare’s massive price control and administrative costs are too much like the current Medicare system.

“How could anyone completely ignore the massive financial problems within the current unsustainable Medicare system only to create another much larger health program with all the same features?” Beyer said.

Indeed, as Heritage expert Alyene Senger has explained:

Third-party payment arrangements are already compromising the independence and integrity of the medical profession, and Obamacare reinforces the worst of these features. Specifically, physicians will be subject to more government regulation and oversight, and will be increasingly dependent on unreliable government reimbursement for medical services.

The enactment of Obamacare inspired Beyer to write Heaven or Health in 2012, a book about his ideas on a health care system that is transparent and allows for competition and quality. He also posts regularly on Doctors Against Obamacare, the advocacy page he started on Facebook to collect stories and information about the harmful effects of Obamacare.

“It’s our lives,” Beyer stressed. “Do we really want to delegate the care of our lives to self-interested third parties and bureaucratic decision makers?”

Our experts in the Center for Health Policy Studies have put together a conservative alternative to Obamacare that explains how a free-market health care system can work. It’s a plan designed to put patients and their quality of care first.