PJ Media

Obama, Heal Thyself

An April 26 article in the New York Times reported:

The need for more doctors comes up at almost every congressional hearing and White House forum on health care. “We’re not producing enough primary-care physicians,”Obama said at one forum. “The costs of medical education are so high that people feel that they’ve got to specialize.”

This quote demonstrates precisely the stilted logic based on flimsy assumptions that characterizes the intellect of our statist new presidential administration. That primary care physicians are in short supply is not in dispute, but the shortage certainly doesn’t stem from the cost of medical education, according to a November 2008 consumeraffairs.com report:

“At a time when the new administration and new Congress are talking about ways to expand access to health care, the harsh reality is that there might not be enough doctors to handle the increased number of people who might want to see them if they get health insurance,” said Walker Ray, MD, Vice President of The Physicians’ Foundation. “It’s as if we’re talking about expanding access to higher education without having enough professors to handle the influx of students. It’s basic supply and demand.”

“Basic supply and demand”? What a concept! No wonder the lumpen redistributionists populating the regulator-in-chief’s administration are unable to puzzle out this problem. The study of free markets and capitalism has apparently been excised from the Ivy League diploma-mills attended by our new pontificating elite. When faced with a thorny issue needing redress, the community organizers in charge first ask:  How can we regulate this problem into a benefit for our pals?

A primary discouragement to the pursuit of medical degrees is, in fact, the onerous amount of regulation already foisted on medical practitioners. The same consumeraffairs.com report noted:

The reported reasons for the widespread frustration among physicians include increased time dealing with non-clinical paperwork, difficulty receiving reimbursement and burdensome government regulations.

Combine the discouraging expansion of bureaucratic paper shuffling requirements with the punitive cost of malpractice insurance and you have the regulatory perfecta, reducing the number of men and women willing to undergo the rigorous demands of preparing for the medical profession. An April 2003 article in the New England Journal of Medicine stated:

The medical liability system as we know it is highly flawed. It poorly compensates those injured, drives up the cost of health care by forcing physicians to practice defensive medicine for fear of being sued, and is driving good doctors out of practice.

There are two simple steps the administration could take to allow market forces to work naturally to increase the number of primary care physicians in America. By enacting tort reform, the feds could reduce the amount of time and money spent by physicians to protect themselves from frivolous and excessively compensated lawsuits.

Of course, our president in Washington is unlikely to do anything to upset the applecart full of cash carted out of American courtrooms by John Edwards and his ilk.

Am I the only one noticing the dearth of calls in America to fill the shortage of lawyers in our country?  Of course not.  The insufficient regulation and subsequent massive amount of cash available to those pursuing malpractice suits ensures a huge oversupply of lawyers. Try Googling “medical malpractice” and you’ll be faced with hundreds of advertisements for tragedy solicitors trolling for a big malpractice payday.  Barristers’ investments in Google space are so large that they have nearly crowded out any other information about malpractice from the search engine.

So that leaves a single option for Obama and his merry band of doctor-makers, although his apologists present it as three options according to the April 26 New York Times article:

One would increase enrollment in medical schools and residency training programs. Another would encourage greater use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants. A third would expand the National Health Service Corps, which deploys doctors and nurses in rural areas and poor neighborhoods.

Where do you suppose those doctors and nurses deployed in the NHS corps are going to come from if we already have a shortage?

Thus, your new national health care coverage will be administered by physicians trained more frugally than those now practicing. Perhaps these newbies can be rushed through a community college-type program in a couple of years to meet the demand for “doctors.” One can imagine the high quality sawbones that would be turned out by our nation’s rumpled bureaucracy.

The simple alternative — simplifying the procedures for physician access to Medicare and Medicaid funds combined with tort reform to enable doctors to keep more of their hard-earned cash — is surely anathema to Obama and his regulators. Unfortunately the president’s approach meets the medical standard for Gresham’s Law, as demonstrated in nationalized health care systems in Europe and Canada: Bad doctors drive out good doctors.