Last week two tragedies came upon my household. First, my wife came into the house and exclaimed that her car was falling apart. The second was that my son came down with a nasty sickness. I responded to the car by taking it to the mechanic and he said that all the brakes and rotors needed to be changed on the car and to do that would be $760. I couldn’t believe that it would be that much, so I called a couple hardware stores and found that the best price for the parts would be $140. After I purchased the parts, I put on my gloves and got to work. It took me six hours and a couple trips to the hardware store, but that car is running smoother than the day I bought it. Now if only our healthcare system worked this well.

As my son’s condition became worse, I decided it was time to call the pediatrician. After describing what was wrong they said I would need to come in for a visit. I quickly informed them that I had just started a new job and my insurance did not kick in till the beginning of the month, so I would need the cash price. They told me that this not the way the system works. They will determine the price after I have already received the service. I asked what the range of the price would be and they said it could be $70 to $350. I was shocked for the second time this week. My response was similar; I called various pediatrician offices to ask for prices. They all told me the same thing!

When I called around to the different hardware stores they offered me the best product for the best price and if I could find somewhere cheaper than they would match that price. When I explained this to one doctor’s office they laughed. They thought that the idea that they would have to compete for my dollar was absurd. This lack of competition among practitioners is a core issue in our medical system. Competition allows for consumers to get the best quality for the best price. In our medical system the cost is hidden through co-pays and contracted prices. This causes consumers to make poor decisions. The first step to fixing this catastrophe is by consumers demanding an upfront price.

Next we should be requesting less coverage from insurances companies. Insurance plans have already moved in this direction. Most of us have deductibles that are between $2,500 and $5,000. These plans should not cover basic checkups or doctor visits for minor issues. When my car needs new brakes, more gas, or an oil change, I don’t claim it on my insurance. The thought of submitting those to our car insurance sounds ridiculous. If car insurance did cover brakes and oil it would make car insurance and the services more expensive. Health insurance will be affordable when it is treated like car insurance.

The final step that I suggest to improving our medical system is legalizing drugs. I understand that this step seems irrational to some people, but if we take a moment to think about it, it is actually not unreasonable. People should simply be allowed to ingest whatever they want into their own body. Legalizing drugs will drop prices of the drugs and prescriber visits. Many people are prescribed drugs for the rest of their life. These people should not have to pay a high price of going to a doctor just to receive the medication that they need (women on birth control, diabetics, blood pressure, etc). Doctor visits will be less frequent so they would be cheaper and friendlier. Pharmaceutical drugs might still be covered by insurances depending on the plans that a person signed up with. Since prescriptions would no longer be required, the pharmaceutical companies would have to make their products more affordable.

Currently, in our healthcare system we have a patient who has to go through an insurance company, who has to abide by laws created by the government, to tell this patient which doctor he can go to and which drugs they can prescribe. There are three simple ways to break this cycle. One, we need doctors to give out simple pricing for services. Two, insurance plans should only be used for emergencies only. The idea that we need to use insurance for a common cold needs to go away. Three, the government needs to legalize drugs. It would make people healthier and prices decline. If our country would just take this simple mechanics guide to fixing our healthcare system we would live free and healthy.