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Opportunities for health care reform these days seem nearly boundless. Over the last few years Missouri has led the country with direct primary care, volunteer care, and right-to-try reforms, yet there is still much that the state can do to make health care better here in the Show-Me State. We've talked about a few possible reforms already, including Medicaid block grants & waivers, physician licensing reciprocity and certificate of need reforms, but another opportunity for lawmakers to reform the state's health care system is an idea called "Right to Shop."

Like the Medicaid reform we proposed three years ago, Right to Shop realigns incentives for health care consumers by rewarding them for seeking out cost-effective care. In a Right-to-Shop state, patients would be able to receive a portion of the savings an insurer would realize if the patient went to a lower-cost provider rather than a higher-cost provider. Rather than reinforce the paradigm where the ever-increasing prices we pay for a service go straight toward driving up our respective premiums, Right to Shop shifts the paradigm by empowering consumers in the private market to save themselves—and their risk pools—money that can be used toward other life needs they might have. That means more money can go toward health care spending, but also toward rent, car payments, or whatever else a patient might need, health-related or not.

Here's how Josh Archambault of the Foundation for Government Accountability, the chief proponents of the idea, explained the concept in Forbes last year:

Right To Shop empowers patients with the knowledge they need to make smart choices about how and where they consume health care. They’re given tools to find the best value providers and, when they choose those options, they get a share of the savings – in cash.

It’s so easy, even a caveman can use it.

"Caveman" is probably a good image here, given that health care shopping was stuck in the Stone Age for much of the last few decades. For most Americans, the price actually charged for our health care when we received it was less of a gripe than the price paid in deductibles, premiums, and copays throughout the year—even though they're all inextricably connected.

Right to Shop takes us another step in a better policy direction, toward transparency in pricing, competition for our care, and gentle reform of the third-party payer system we've come to expect. If Missouri policymakers haven't considered the idea yet, now would be a good time.

Patrick Ishmael

About the Author

Patrick Ishmael

Patrick Ishmael is the director of government accountability at the Show-Me Institute.