Health Care

Michael Carnuccio | October 3, 2014

Free Market Friday: OKC a leader in affordable care

Michael Carnuccio

Health care is not expensive. What people are being charged for is another matter altogether.

That’s a sentiment commonly expressed by members of the Free Market Medical Association, which held its first annual conference last week in Oklahoma City. The FMMA brings together buyers (employers, patients) and sellers (doctors and other providers).

“These ideas are no longer some economic theory, but rather the free-market models producing results,” said Dr. Keith Smith.
Smith is the CEO and medical director at the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, a multi-specialty facility in Oklahoma City, which posts its prices online. He has treated medical tourists from 49 states and Canada. With prices often one-sixth to one-tenth of what larger providers charge – and with satisfied patients – it’s not hard to see why.

Thanks to Smith and Jay Kempton, president and CEO of Kempton Group, a third-party administrator of self-funded employee-benefit plans, Oklahoma City is the hub of the free-market movement that is beginning to spur health care price deflation.

And this movement will only grow, thanks in large part to the millennials. People who grew up with an iPhone in their hand know how to use websites and apps such as, and They demand what the free market delivers: more choices, higher quality and lower cost.

Yes, the large health care providers have many high costs – erecting cranes all over town and buying referrals by gobbling up physician practices – but millennials don’t care. As one FMMA conference speaker put it, “Inefficiency in your model is not my problem.”

As the free market continues to make inroads into our bloated health care system, people will no longer pay $100 for a pill that costs a nickel. They won’t pay $987 for a cortisone shot that costs a dollar (as one of my colleagues recently did). They won’t pay $40,000 for a procedure when the same doctor will perform the same surgery across town for $5,000.

“When those who are paying their own health care bills are flocking to the physicians and facilities they know will not bankrupt them, and they then tell everyone they know about their experience, the market begins to inflict its discipline on even those who have so assiduously worked to avoid it,” Smith said.

Michael Carnuccio

Former OCPA President

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