Root of the Problem: Supply and Demand

March/07/2008 1:03AM
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Health Care: hot topic on the campaign trail. Our Government wants to get more involved in health care. Some want all health care to be free in this country. What got us to this point?

My theory, just a theory. Supply and demand. Too few doctors. Carl Getto, chairman of the Council on Graduate Medical Education, a panel Congress created to recommend how many doctors the nation needs." The debate is over how many."

Getto’s advocacy of more doctors is remarkable because his advisory committee and it’s predecessor have been instrumental since the 1980"s in efforts to restrict the supply of new physicians. In a new study sent to Congress, the council reverses that policy and recommends training 3,000 more doctors a year in U.S. medical schools.

The production of new doctors has changed little since 1985. Today, new physicians roughly equal the number of doctors retiring. Within a decade,baby boom doctors licensed in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s will retire in large numbers that will outstrip the 25,000 new doctors produced every year.

The effective number of physicians will fall even more because doctors work shorter hours today. The public expects good health care but we aren’t producing enough physicians to provide it. Why?

Congress controls the supply of physicians by how much federal funding it provides for medical residencies–the graduate training required of all doctors. The government spends about $11 billion annually on 100,000 medical residents, or roughly $110,000 per resident. In 1997, to save money Congress capped the number of residents that Medicare will pay for at about 80,000 a year.

Surprise, surprise, the same body that is going to fix the problem caused a big part of the problem. By erring on the side of less, we have too few doctors and the prospect for fixing that in the short term is not bright. 

But, get this, we have a glut of attorneys. Too many attorneys, not enough work, let’s sue the doctors. Too few doctors who have to work 5 months a year to pay their malpractice policy because too many attorneys are suing them. 

My health policy. Get the government out of the business of deciding how many doctors we need in the this country. Let the marketplace decide. Let the insurance companies establish the funding for residencies. Cap the malpractice payments and shrink the population of attorneys or let them find more productive work. More doctors who only have to work 2 months a year to pay the malpractice policies, more competition between doctors, less cost for treatments. Less cost for insurance. Eliminate the red tape and you get less cost yet. Maybe, just maybe, health insurance can be affordable.

Isn’t is strange. Almost any major problem we have in the country can be traced back to govenrnment involvement. Do you really want more?

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