After a highly publicized failure to repeal Obamacare in March, Republican leaders have repeatedly said the battle is not over. President Donald Trump continues to push lawmakers to negotiate changes to the 2010 healthcare law, though it’s not clear whether any legislation will have enough support to usurp the Affordable Care Act.
Instead of trying to replace Obamacare with a different version, we should let entrepreneurs play a prominent role in fixing our broken healthcare system.
Politicians have overlooked entrepreneurship as a healthcare solution because of an obvious bias against the market. As healthcare has evolved from a local and distributed service to its current highly centralized form, many people have assumed entrepreneurs and small businesses cannot provide these services. This centralization into huge hospitals and insurance companies is the result of regulations the government has placed on the industry. The enormous threshold to entering the market also means that incumbents don’t face a lot of competition.
But entrepreneurship hasn’t been a part of this discussion, and the stagnant healthcare field is in desperate need of innovation. Surely the brightest, most inventive minds in the world can help modernize this idle industry.
A distinct lack of innovation
Our healthcare industry is outright hostile toward entrepreneurs, pushing away people with skills, expertise and novel ideas in favor of tried-and-true methods. In market-based industries, anyone who invents a better way of doing something — or a completely new product — can start a business and compete with the incumbents. This is impossible in healthcare.
Entrepreneurs don’t choose an industry because it’s profitable; they typically have experience in their field that helps them recognize the opportunity to improve things. In healthcare, for example, we might expect innovations courtesy of specialists, general physicians, nurses and administrators.
Yet if these would-be entrepreneurs do not pursue their ideas, society loses out on that progress. Consequently, consumers will not enjoy improved procedures, treatments or medications. These ideas will remain unrealized (I wrote a book on this subject: The Seen, the Unseen, and the Unrealized) but won’t be considered a loss, because they technically never existed in the first place. This lost potential is the true cost of not allowing healthcare to be entrepreneurial, and as a result, people suffer or even die because innovations never materialize.
How to carve out a niche in healthcare
Our healthcare system is so regulated that there’s no way for entrepreneurs to simply enter the market and compete. Accordingly, they’re unable to offer novel treatments or perspectives that aren’t licensed.