Sunday, September 13, 2009

Obamacare Ruins Market-Based Rationing

Per the AP:
The need for more primary care doctors comes as the country's shortage of all doctors is expected to worsen, according to a study by the Association of American Medical Colleges, which found the rate of first-year enrollees in U.S. medical schools has declined steadily since 1980.

If current patterns persist, the study shows the country will have about 159,000 fewer doctors than it needs by 2025.
But...this can't be. Don't they realize that the US has the greatest medical system in the world and that doctors from other countries flock here because they can charge market rates for their services? But to hear this, our markets aren't solving this problem, so we're paying far more than other countries yet still face healthcare shortages. As it is, we're already short doctors and that, were all Americans able to pay for their own medical care, we'd have an even worse medical problem. Why, it's almost as if we're (GULP!) rationing care! (Cue scary music.)

Curiously, the article acts as if this is going to be a major "hurdle" for Obama's healthcare plans, without mentioning that part of his plan is directly designed to fix this problem. It quotes Obama saying that we need more primary care physicians and later suggests that one solution would be to increase pay for physicians, yet somehow fails to mention that this is part of the plan.

So, the tone of the article is that there is a flaw with Obama's plan, even though this is a problem we already have, which Obama's plan is designed to fix. I'm really not surprised to see the AP logo on this one.

What's Wrong With Massachusetts

The article also mentions that Massachusetts has a similar problem, as if to suggest that it is inherently flawed to attempt to give everyone healthcare, as money-based rationing is required. As they say:

As Massachusetts' experience shows, extending health care to 50 million uninsured Americans will only further stress the system and could force many of those newly insured back into costly emergency rooms for routine care if they can't find a primary care doctor, health care observers said.

Massachusetts, home of the nation's most ambitious health care law, has seen the need for primary care doctors shoot up with the addition of 428,000 people to the ranks of the insured under a 2006 law that mandates health care for nearly all residents.

Wow, sounds horrible, right? A further stressed system which (yikes) might force people to have the same emergency care they get now (without the big bill). Just wait until you see the numbers, which were much further down in the article:

In a 2008 survey of physicians, the Massachusetts Medical Society found the average wait time to see an adult primary care doctor was 50 days, with some doctors reporting wait times for new patients of up to 100 days. That's compared to 2005, before the law was signed, when the average wait was 47 days and the longest was 87 days.

The society also found a drop in the number of primary care doctors accepting new patients. In 2008, 42 percent had closed their practice to new patients compared with 33 percent in 2004, before the law was signed.

Soooo, the average wait time went up three days, from a horrible 47 day wait to a slightly worse 50 day wait, and we're supposed to be imagining that universal healthcare totally stressed out their system? And doctors not accepting new patients went up by nine points. And sure, that's not good, but...they were also giving lots more people healthcare. And we're now to imagine that this is so bad that we should think twice before doing it.

And mind you, as the article already said, our healthcare system is already short doctors, while our population is naturally growing. So we should already expect to see these numbers get worse after four years. And hey, maybe Massachusetts really does have a big mess on their hands from all this healthcare they're giving to everyone, but the article never established that.

And so in the end, we're left with an article which tries to scare us away from "Obamacare," with very little data backing up those claims, and which doesn't mention that Obama's plan is designed to fix a problem we already have. After all, we're not talking about bringing fifty million new citizens into the country to require healthcare, but merely to provide care for the folks we already have. So giving them insurance only calls attention to a problem we already have; it doesn't make the problem worse. Hopefully, Obama's plan will become law and the problem will start to get a little better. And after that, it's Death Panels for everyone!!!

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