If you want to know why The Alliance chose Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal to headline the 2018 Annual Seminar, take a look at the “Economic Rules of the Dysfunctional Medical Marketplace.”

Rosenthal is the author of An American Sickness, a best-selling book that describes “how health care became big business and how you can take it back.” The book details how the health care system evolved to provide “hugely expensive medical care that doesn’t reliably deliver quality results.”

The High Cost of Dysfunction

We chose Rosenthal not just because her book is a best-seller, but because she captures the issues that are causing health care to become more and more dysfunctional. That dysfunction comes at a high cost for employers and patients.

Instead of trying to repeat Rosenthal’s insights, we got permission to reprint the Economic Rules of the Dysfunctional Medical Marketplace. Please note that these are the economic rules of the marketplace that reward health care as a business; they are typically the opposite of the rules that employers and consumers would seek to put in place.

Rosenthal’s book backs these rules with numerous examples that show how they shape the health care market.

Economic Rules of the Dysfunctional Medical Marketplace

  1. More treatment is always better. Default to the most expensive option.
  2. A lifetime of treatment is preferable to a cure.
  3. Amenities and marketing matter more than good care.
  4. As technologies age, prices can rise rather than fall.
  5. There is no free choice. Patients are stuck. And they’re stuck buying American.
  6. More competitors vying for business doesn’t mean better prices; it can drive prices up, not down.
  7. Economies of scale don’t translate to lower prices. With their market power, big providers can simply demand more.
  8. There is no such thing as a fixed price for a procedure or test. And the uninsured pay the highest prices of all.
  9. There are no standards for billing. There’s money to be made in billing for anything and everything.
  10. Prices will rise to whatever the market will bear.

©2017 Elisabeth Rosenthal. Reprinted with permission.

Creating a Better Marketplace

The second half of Rosenthal’s book provides steps that employers and patients can take to counter the dysfunctional rules warping the marketplace. These steps can help create a health care marketplace that truly serves patients and payers alike.

Sally Welborn, formerly the senior vice president of benefits at Walmart, will also speak at the Annual Seminar to share effective health benefit tactics for employers.


Want to learn more? Attend The Alliance Annual Seminar on Diagnosing An American Sickness on May 17. This free event is open to employers, providers and patients. Registration is required as seating is limited.

Teri Van Tassel

Teri Van Tassel

Vice President, Marketing & Product Innovation at The Alliance
Teri Van Tassel joined The Alliance in 2006 and serves as vice president, marketing and product innovation. Her responsibilities include market research, health policy, product development, product management, marketing communications and the public and media relations functions for the organization. Prior to joining The Alliance, Teri served as vice president/marketing for the Credit Union Executives Society.

In addition to her work at The Alliance, Teri serves on the leadership team for a Collaboration Development grant awarded to Mental Health America of Wisconsin, as an advisory council member for the Wisconsin Initiative to Promote Healthy Lifestyles (WIPHL), serves on the Wisconsin Coalition for OpenNotes committee, a product development committee member for the National Alliance of Health Care Purchaser Coalitions and is also a member of the American Marketing Association. Teri received her bachelor's degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Teri Van Tassel

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