That's what makes healthcare so unlike any other consumer product available. The typical shopper is fully capable of making informed decisions about whether to buy Nike or Converse sneakers, or which brand of jeans to wear, or what kind of car to drive.
But is there anyone without medical training who feels qualified to say, "No thanks, we'll skip that bladder ultrasound and see what happens?"
"Consumers are the last people to make these decisions," said David Dranove, a healthcare economist at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. "Nobody should try to play doctor."
It's crazy to think that patients will ever be in a position to be equal partners in the healthcare equation. This is the one product in which we have to trust others to be looking out for us.
Yet, along with being caregivers, those others are representatives of financial interests that are mindful of how people's medical treatment will affect their bottom line.
That's not to say hospitals, drug companies, medical device makers and even insurers aren't having a positive effect on society. They are. But they're also businesses. They measure their overall success not in lives saved but in dollars earned.
As such, it's important that our healthcare system have the transparency and oversight required to keep patients, not profits, front and center.
The healthcare marketplace doesn't foster the same economic forces that keep other markets in line. Consumers aren't making free decisions. Medical businesses exploit their unfair advantage in the form of arbitrary and hidden prices.
Americans pay twice what people in other developed countries pay for healthcare. Yes, we have the best tools. Yes, we have the best medical practitioners.
And, yes, I wouldn't want my wife to have been treated anywhere else.
But I live in fear of the bill that's coming down the pike. It will almost certainly run in the six figures. My out-of-pocket costs could run to five figures.
More than 60% of personal bankruptcies in this country are caused by medical bills, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School. And of those who file for bankruptcy, 78% have health insurance.
I'm grateful for the exceptional care my wife received. Our healthcare system is truly a marvel.
Yet I have to ask: What's the good of having the best tools if no one can afford to use them?
David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. He also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send your tips or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.