Some of the more righteous reformers of healthcare would like to rid the system of entrepreneurs, capitalists and marketers. Critics contend that these profiteers have fueled the medical arms race and propelled healthcare into a $900 billion industry.
But as Harvard Business School professor Regina Herzlinger writes in the spring issue of The Public Interest, many of these targets have led a quiet revolution in healthcare that has produced innovation and efficiency, not to mention an improved quality of life for millions of Americans.
Entrepreneurs also can be given credit for starting many of the organizations that have lowered costs. Many successful managed-care companies, outpatient centers and home health agencies were founded by astute business people. Other entrepreneurs have created companies that feed payer and patient demand for health information on cost and quality.
Creative minds also have championed integrated delivery systems, purchasing groups and other business structures designed to make providers more efficient.
Although high technology and pharmaceutical breakthroughs are blamed for medical inflation, a number of new devices and products have reduced costs. Drugs have wiped out or effectively treated many diseases. Technological innovations have cut the number of invasive surgical procedures.
Adding marketplace rationality, managed competition, universal insurance, cost savings and consumer protection to the bloated healthcare system are worthy goals. However, reformers shouldn't stifle creativity and innovation for the sake of achieving harmony.