The health care system is the least competitive industry in America, leading to skyrocketing costs, according to a Harvard physician.
Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said better price transparency—a popular solution to rising medical costs—will make health care more affordable for patients, but that solution alone will not reduce prices. Disclosing the costs of treatment does little good if consumers do not have access to other doctors—one of the key drivers of rising costs, according to Jha.
"Imagine a place where somebody is selling slices of pizza for $10," he told the Senate Health Committee. "You can make that price transparent, but if you don't have an alternative to go somewhere else for a cheaper slice of pizza then price transparency isn't going to do you much."
Jha said that the health care industry was less competitive than almost any other in the United States, which poses the biggest threat to consumers. Some lawmakers shared his misgivings with the evolution of regional monopolies in both rural and urban areas.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R., La.), a career physician, has spearheaded efforts to reform the health care system and co-sponsored the Senate's failed attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. He said that the consolidation of providers has driven up costs exponentially, even in bigger cities such as Boston. The trend of area monopoly providers can be traced to the lack of competition in the insurance market, as well as demographics.