Like in Massachusetts, the Obama administration plans on controlling rising medical costs nationwide through a system of “bundled payments” to “Accountable Care Organizations” that would essentially reward doctors and hospitals for limiting care. Although the buzzwords may be new, one patient astutely observed to New York Times medical writer Dr. Pauline Chen, “Whatever that care plan is called, it still sounds like an H.M.O. to me.”
Hence, it is no surprise that many doctors are increasingly seeking to opt out of government programs such as Medicare. Others are moving towards “concierge practices” that allow them to practice according to their best medical conscience free from the restrictions of the government-controlled insurance system. And just as many fed-up Massachusetts doctors are leaving that state, some fed-up American doctors may start taking a closer look at overseas “medical tourism” practice opportunities.
In a recent Washington Post piece, Dr. Manoj Jain reported on his visit to a medical tourism facility in Bangalore, India. This facility catered to Americans by offering surgeries of comparable quality to American hospitals, in a clean, modern, high-tech setting — but at one-tenth the price. Similar facilities will be opening soon in the Cayman Islands, a mere hour’s flight from Miami.
Of course, under ObamaCare not every American doctor will relocate to another country. But as government controls increase, those doctors who most value their freedom to practice according to their best independent judgment will be least willing to be compelled to practice according to government “clinical guidelines.”
America may thus experience a combined internal and external exodus of the best, most independent, most conscientious doctors out of the government-controlled system — akin to how the best scientists, musicians, and artists fled the Eastern Bloc countries for the West during the Cold War. The remaining doctors will be the ones more willing to abdicate their professional responsibility to offer their patients their best independent expertise and instead practice “cookie cutter” medicine as dictated by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. Is this the kind of doctor you will want caring for you five years from now when you are seriously ill?
Fortunately, it’s not too late for the rest of America to learn from Massachusetts. Instead of adopting that failed system at the national level, Americans should demand that Congress “defund” and repeal ObamaCare — and adopt genuine free-market health care reforms like those advocated by Tea Party physician-activist Dr. Milton Wolf and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. Such reforms include fixing the tax code to put employer-provided health insurance and individually-owned health insurance on a level playing field, repealing costly mandates specifying which benefits insurers must offer, allowing individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines, and eliminating monopolistic medical licensing requirements that prevent doctors from practicing across state lines. These reforms would lower costs and improve access to quality medical care, while respecting the individual rights of patients, doctors, and insurers.
The ongoing failure of the “universal health care” plan in Massachusetts serves as a clear warning to the rest of America. The only question is whether we’ll heed it.