by Patrick B. McGuigan
The Free Market Medical Association held its first national conference Friday, September 26 and Saturday, September 27 in Oklahoma City.
Organizers said the conference was intended to provide “insightful best practice recommendations and a call to action to keep expanding access and use of free market medicine.”
The theme was “Thinkers, Doers, and Users: Forecasts, ideas, and how to create a free market health care practice — How to practice free market medicine and how use free market care to save money and get better results.”
Advocacy of free market health care is the longtime passion of Dr. Keith Smith, co-founder of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma. The center began to post fixed prices for common medical procedures years ago, and has provoked widespread admiration within the medical profession for efficiency, reasonable cost and frequent support for those who are less fortunate.
At the Surgery Center, Dr. Keith Smith and Dr. Steve Lantier have established an operational structure and market-oriented billing as explicit alternatives to the third-party payer systems that now dominate U.S. health care.
The center posts online an up-front price for medical procedures in diverse areas of practice, including orthopedics, ear/nose/throat, general surgery, urology, ophthalmology, foot and ankle, and reconstructive plastics. In all, a total of 112 procedures are listed.
This year, the center has been highlighted in local news reports, including for The City Sentinel and www.CapitolBeatOK, for an historic “provider services agreement” with the Oklahoma County government. The accord saved taxpayers nearly $600,000 in its first five months of operation.
Dr. Smith is a board-certified anesthesiologist, and is medical director and managing partner sat the Surgery Center. In addition to Smith, Jay Kempton – also an Oklahoman – addressed his work over the past two decades with state employees determined to make health benefits for workers more affordable and efficient.
Other speakers included entrepreneur Charlie Sauer, a founder of Entrepreneurs for Growth. Dr. Cori Cook was another presenter, focusing on specialized advisory and legal services for administrators, providers, employers, attorneys, associations and carriers.
Ralph Weber, another speaker, is one of the country’s best known health care policy consultants, pressing for better access, transparency and value in delivery of health care. Also participating in the conference was Lee S. Gross, a co-founder of Epiphany Health.
The conference included other speakers, as well, and a focus on direct pay, healthcare leadership, the free market boom, “green lights and red lights,” the rationale for price transparency, changes in the ways Americans are buying health care, and the spike in “self-financing” for health care coverage.