Price discovery is indeed difficult in the current market. However, the current healthcare market is no where close to a free market.
For example, suppose you wanted to start a hospital that offered price transparency, like the Surgery Center of Oklahoma does. (1)
In thirty-five states and the District of Columbia, you’d first have to acquire a certificate-of-need (CON) from the state healthcare regulators.
In order to get certificate of need, you must prove that the community “needs” the new or expanded service, and existing providers are invited to challenge your application.
Existing hospitals typically don’t want new competitors taking away their patients, so they vigorously fight to prevent new CON’s from being issued.
For example, Dr. Mark Monteferrante wanted to buy a second MRI machine for his radiology practice in 2003. But it took five years and more than $175,000 in fees to get the certificate. (2)
And conlaws are just one example of perverse effects of state intervention into the healthcare market, from state laws restricting insurance competition, to severe restrictions on new entrants to the medical labor market, to drug monopolies.