Thursday, November 15, 2012

Another consequence of government controlled health care? Doctors' shortage.

With the debate over Obamacare at least temporarily settled,  the problems with government run health care will only grow and worsen.  This story "Doc Shortage Could Crash Health Care" caught my eye as another example of a consequence - shortage of doctors.

Why would government run health care mean fewer doctors?  Simple.  Less attractive wages.
In a 2008 census by the AAMC and the American Medical Association, researchers found that the number of medical graduates choosing a career in family medicine dropped from 5,746 in 2002 to 4,210 in 2007 -- a drop of nearly 27 percent.

"It's pretty tough to convince medical students to go into primary care," said Dr. Lee Green, chair of Family Medicine at the University of Alberta, who was not involved with the study.

Green added that he believes this is because currently primary care specialties are not well paid, well treated or respected as compared to subspecialists.

"They have to think about their debt," he said. "There are also issues of how physicians are respected and how we portray primary care to medical students."

These problems loom even larger considering the aim of the Affordable Care Act to provide all Americans with health insurance -- and with it, more regular contact with a primary care doctor.
Perhaps the best known example of this approach has been Massachusetts, which since 2006 has mandated that every resident obtain health insurance and those that are below the federal poverty level gain free access to health care. But although the state has the second-highest ratio of primary care physicians to population of any state, they are struggling with access to primary care physicians.

Dr. Randy Wexler of The John Glenn Institute of Public Service and Policy said he has concerns that this trend could be reflected nationwide.
"Who is going to care for these people?" he said. "We are going to have problems just like Massachusetts. [They] are struggling with access problems; it takes one year to get into a primary care physician. Coverage does not equal access."

Some have already proposed solutions to this looming problem. One suggestion is that non-physician medical professionals, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, can pick up the slack. Doctors, however, said his may not be enough to fill the gap. 
What will be the response?  Higher taxes to pay these primary care doctors more?  Again wrong headed.  The answer?  Restore a basic free market system rather than command and control from the top via government regulations and mandates.  There are only two ways to control health care costs - consumers responding to market prices or rationing.  Obamacare will mean more rationing.

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