Labor Commissioner Costello, legislative Democrats honor free market surgery center for entrepreneurial excellence

– An Oklahoma City business specializing in a free market approach to medical services garnered bipartisan recognition for its work on January 25.

Surgery Center of Oklahoma received an Entrepreneurial Excellence Award from Commissioner of Labor Mark Costello, a Republican. Costello presented the award to the center’s co-founders, Dr. Keith Smith and Dr. Steve Lantier at their facility on North Broadway Extension.

Also attending the awards ceremony was state Representative Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City, a Democrat, who presented a legislative citation from the House of Representatives. State Sen. Connie Johnson, also a Democrat, co-sponsored the citation with Shelton. 

Commissioner Costello told CapitolBeatOK, “In my first year as Labor Commissioner, I traveled the state promoting our OSHA Safety Pays Consultation Program. While traveling I visited with some amazing business owners and each had a unique story about why they started their company and how it has evolved over the years. I want to honor these entrepreneurs for their commitment to Oklahoma.”

The center takes a largely “cash only” market approach to provision of medical services. The price transparency guarantees listed prices, and has triggered an American version of medical tourism. Founded in 1997, the center has operated on the premise of providing top-tier procedures at a fraction of the cost charged in traditional hospitals.  

Rep. Shelton read the citation supporting Costello’s presentation and the center, noting the award honored Oklahoma business people “who have created profitable employment for their fellow Oklahomans and have fostered a positive business atmosphere.” 
The citation from Shelton and Johnson asserted “jobs do not come from the government; they are created by business owners who seek to feed their families. Economic development is the result of in-state entrepreneurial success.”

The center is a 32,535 square foot facility which is physician-owned. Forty of the top surgeons and anesthesiologists in central Oklahoma are partners in the operation, which publishes prices online for 112 common medical procedures.

The center’s approach leads to one-page bills, compared to multi-page bills from other medical institutions. Actual costs of the center’s procedures is sometimes one-tenth, and often around one-sixth, of the price at a traditional hospital.

Reasontv has highlighted dramatic price differences between Surgery Center and city-area hospitals. 

The Surgery Center of Oklahoma does not deal with Medicaid or Medicare systems, although some patients access those systems separate from the center’s work. Surgery Center does work with insurance companies, but that triggers a separate pricing structure. In an interview with CapitolBeatOK last month, Dr. Smith explained, “We take on a lot of risks when we file with insurance companies, so we have to charge for that risk.” 

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), the Sooner State’s largest free market “think tank,” has frequently analyzed and praised the Surgery Center’s approach to delivery of medical services. 

Costello pointed to the center’s application of “free market pricing that is one-fifth the cost of a traditional hospital for medical procedures using the same physicians. Their on-line posting of pricing is drawing nationwide attention. Congratulations to the Surgery Center of Oklahoma for winning the Entrepreneurial Excellence in Oklahoma Award.”

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