Congress votes this week on replacing Obamacare with a system that unleashes competition in order to drive prices down.
But what if competition actually drives prices up?
Dr. David Belk runs a website called TrueCostOfHealthCare.net. He’s an MD, who for years has been on a crusade to get doctors and hospitals to post accurate price lists – which most of them absolutely refuse to do.
Case in point: Cancer drugs. Dr. Belk says some of them are affordable, but not all.
“Most of the newer drugs cost in the range of around $5,000 per dose,” he said.
Doctors will tell you they choose the best drug for the patient, but Dr. Belk says there’s something most patients don’t realize.
“Anytime a doctor administers a therapy in their office, they get an average 6 percent commission on the price of the drug they give you,” he said.
Now, would a doctor prescribe a more expensive drug just to make money? Probably not. But Dr. Belk says pharmaceutical companies are betting they’ll do exactly that. That’s how they compete.
“They can attract doctors simply by raising the price because doctors get to pocket a percentage of the price of the drug,” Belk said.
Is that a complete ethical conflict?
“It is a complete ethical conflict,” Belk said. “It’s totally legal. In fact, that’s what the law specifies.”
How do I know that I’m being treated because it’s in my best interest or because it helps get the doctors’ kid’s braces?
“Precisely,” he responded.
Let’s see if that comes up in this week’s debate.