Free Market Medicine in the Pacific Northwest

 

Would you agree to surgery performed by the lowest bidding surgeon? The Washington Post calls it a medical Priceline of sorts, and it’s an increasingly valid option in an ObamaCare environment where affordable options are not as clear cut as intended.

 

The article by Sandra G. Boodman details the story of Francisco Velazco who couldn’t wait any longer for an orthopedic surgeon who would reconstruct the torn ligament in his knee for a price he could afford.

“Out of work because of the pain and unable to scrape together $15,000 — the cheapest option he could find in Seattle — Velazco turned to an unconventional and controversial option: an online medical auction site called Medibid, which largely operates outside the confines of traditional health insurance,” writes Boodman. “The four-year-old online service links patients seeking non-emergency care with doctors and facilities that offer it, much the way Priceline unites travelers and hotels. Vetting doctors is left to prospective patients: Medibid does not verify credentials but requires doctors to submit their medical license number for patients to check.”

 

Velazco reportedly paid $25 to post his request for knee surgery. A few days later, he had bids for the outpatient procedure from surgeons in New York, California and Virginia, including details about their expertise. “After accepting the lowest bid — $7,500, a fee that covered anesthesia and related costs — he learned that his surgeon would be William T. Grant, a Charlottesville orthopedist,” writes Boodman. “A few weeks later, after several online discussions with Grant, Velazco arrived in Charlottesville, where he had rented a $50-a-night room and would spend two weeks recuperating. On Dec. 4, 2013, he underwent knee surgery, performed in an outpatient surgery center that Grant co-owns.”

 

“We introduce transparency and also competition,” said Ralph Weber in the Post article, whose Medibid company is based in Murfreesboro, Tenn. “We are a disruptive innovation, a free-market alternative to Obamacare.” Weber said that about 120,000 consumers — Medibid calls them “seekers” — have used the service.

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