Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) wants Americans to be able to buy insurance the same way they buy lawnmowers — without government regulation. In a radio interview with WIXK’s Jeff Patterson, the freshman congressman said consumers know exactly what they’re going to spend when they buy a lawnmower, but they have “no clue” what they would pay for a colonoscopy.
Competition and transparency would help the market for health care, Duffy said:
“You’re talking about cost controls,” Duffy said. “First of all, do we have cost controls on lawnmowers?”
Patterson noted that a lawnmower is different from heart surgery, for example.
“Because you have competition,” replied Duffy. “And so if you have competition within the plans, you have a right to purchase in the exchange of Medicare, we believe that that competition drives prices down. And when we see markets work in competition in any sector of the economy, we see higher quality and lower prices. And that’s what we’re advocating for within health care.”
“This is not a market that actually works because people can’t shop on price and service because they can’t get that data,” he added.
But the problem with Duffy’s lawnmower comparison is that people don’t buy a lawnmower not knowing when they need it. They buy them to mow their lawns and take time to comparison shop to get a good deal. Instead, when it comes to health insurance, consumers have to rely on employer-provided plans or shop for expensive plans on the individual insurance market where one-fifth of applicants are denied coverage. And the version of “consumer-driven health care” that Duffy seems to be supporting is rooted in the idea that patients will act like consumers and compare quality and costs of medical procedures, negotiating lower prices as needed.
While in theory, it should give people more control over their health coverage, the high-deductible health plans lead people to purchase coverage that might be inadequate for their needs. Consumer satisfaction for the “consumer-driven” plans is low, and patients are unlikely to comparison shop for health services because doctors still have primary control over health care. Instead of helping, Duffy’s hope that buying insurance can be just like buying a lawnmower would only increase costs and hurt consumers.