During a Swedish bank robbery in 1973, police were baffled when the hostages became so irrationally attached to their captors that one of the hostages recounted to a reporter for The New Yorker, “How kind I thought he was for saying it was just my leg he would shoot.” This condition of inappropriate attachment to one’s captor subsequently became known as “Stockholm syndrome.”
With all the abuse heaped onto U.S. consumers in the current health care system, reasonable people might wonder: Are American health care consumers also suffering from this bizarre condition?
Most people recognize much of the current health care system is broken, unnecessarily complex, and wildly inefficient. There are long waits to see a doctor, followed by short office visits, and conflicts of interest permeate the market. All these issues take a toll on tens of millions of people every year, both physically and financially. At an average cost of $10,739 per person, the U.S. health care system costs more than twice the average spent by other comparable countries.
With a system this dysfunctional, it’s strange more people aren’t clamoring for an entirely new, better model. Instead, similar to the hostility the Swedish hostages expressed toward the police who were trying to rescue them 45 years ago, many American health care consumers are extremely skeptical of any market-based changes to the current system—even ones that have repeatedly been proven to yield impressive results.
“What kind of scam are you pulling?” is a common refrain espoused by many disbelieving people when first they learn of much more cost-effective and patient-friendly options such as direct primary care (DPC) and health sharing organizations. DPC offers dramatically improved access to care, same-day accessibility, and telemedicine at incredibly affordable rates. How? By allowing doctors to contract directly with patients, thereby avoiding costly and intrusive health insurance middlemen. Think about it: You wouldn’t use your car insurance to pay for a new tire or oil change. Why? Because it’s much cheaper to pay for these services out of pocket than it would be to have large insurers work with your local mechanic. The same logic applies with primary care doctors.