For as long as I have been in the field, health economics has been dominated by the idea that the free market can’t work in health care.

Being a contrarian, I’m prepared to ask: What if the free market could work? What would it look like?

Say you need a knee replacement. You would upload your x-rays and other medical information to a secure site. Then, doctors (who have already been screened for trustworthiness, quality, and reliability) would have access to your records and they could submit bids on your care.

As with the sale of other services, three things matter in health care: price, quality and amenities. Price is probably the easiest of the three. In our imaginary free market, if a surgeon can’t tell you what it’s going to cost, there will be no deal from the get-go.

What about quality? There would be a way for you to check on the credentials of your prospective surgeons. Where were they trained? How many years have they been in practice? Any malpractice suits? Any indicators of patient satisfaction or dissatisfaction? Also, you would be able to form a personal relationship with your physician – by phone, by email and by Skype – before consummating a transaction.