Published: July 6, 2022

“Health care in America, having had no deliberate determination as to its identity, has straddled the line between being a private or a common good, resulting in access disparities and irrational prices.”—Tom Robertson, Vizient Research Institute Executive Director

American medicine faces an identity crisis. According to Vizient Research Institute Executive Director Tom Robertson, “We have never as a society deliberately decided whether U.S. health care is what economists call a public good, a private good or a common good.” Private goods include discretionary purchases such as automobiles or designer wristwatches for which the market dictates distribution and pricing. Common goods, however, such as electricity or clean water, are necessities and society is reluctant to limit access over the inability to pay.  

Robertson explores the concept and implications for our health system in the Vizient Research Institute’s latest study, “Health Care as an Uncommon Good: In Search of a Path Forward.” The study includes quantitative and qualitative analyses that examine the current health care landscape, and what could trigger a shift in thinking along with the resulting strategic implications.  

 

The study found that the biggest contributor to the increase in health care spending is unit price not utilization and wide variation in private sector prices exists within markets today as a result of negotiations between providers and insurers. The study explores the unintended consequences of the industry’s reliance on the market to govern the distribution of services with the faith that competition would lead to lower prices. “Health care in America, having had no deliberate determination as to its identity, has straddled the line between being a private or a common good, resulting in access disparities and irrational prices,” says Robertson.  

The study has been shared with participants in all Vizient Member Networks. For more information about joining a Member Network and accessing this and other resources provided by the Vizient Research Institute, contact Tom Potter, senior vice president, member connections business operations.