Looking for the keys to the black box of price for medical service (the example of Moscow dentistry)
sociology State University Higher School of Economics Moscow, Russian Federation
Up to a certain extent prices of goods can be calculated and read with the reference to the material costs while pricing of illusive and immaterial services turns out to be a black box for both market actors and researchers. At this juncture the case of medical services seems to be particularly complicated. Medicine deals with health ? an absolute ?substantive? value. To put it in terms of Karl Polany health is a fictitious good. Meanwhile marketization of medical services requires its calculation and representation as a numerical price.
The main medical service people in Russia used to pay for is a dental service. So, on the one hand, dentistry is a sphere where pricing of medical services is routinized more or less successfully. On the other, prices of dental services in Russia are deeply differentiated. Therefore the necessity to make a choice by comparing different prices makes market actors to ponder over price determinants. Presented in this light dentistry is a good example for studying price-setting for medical services.
On the results of a longitudinal empirical study of a price setting on the Moscow dental market I elaborate the thesis that in order to calculate and price dental services actors redefine them as a set of tangible characteristics able to be compared and ranged. The latter helps them to shield the sacred nature of health as an object of medical services and to construct market prices able to become legitimate, authoritative and taken for granted.