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Research Letter
May 28, 2012

Health Care as a “Market Good”? Appendicitis as a Case Study

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Emergency Medicine (Dr Hsia) and Internal Medicine (Ms Maselli) and School of Medicine (Mr Kothari), University of California, San Francisco, and Ecologic Institute, Berlin, Germany (Dr Srebotnjak).

Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(10):818-819. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.1173

Consumer-driven health care has emerged as a new paradigm in allowing patients to have a stronger say in how their health care dollars are spent.1 Patients are encouraged to consider medical care a commodity that can be bought and sold. Yet health care is a unique industry in which many traditional market principles fail. Consumers of health care do not always have good information about their condition and rely on the advice of professionals. Moreover, studies have shown that total costs and charges at different health care facilities vary substantially for what should be similar services.2

In this study, we analyzed charges for an unpredictable and emergent condition: acute appendicitis. We anticipated that charges would vary significantly in an unpredictable and nonobvious way.