Debate Over Doctor Shortages

August 17, 2012
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In my lifetime I’ve been right about some things and wrong about others. But here is one thing I feel certain about: the absolutely worst thing we can do in health policy is to make health care free at the point of delivery and try to supply all the care people demand at a price of zero.

In the Wall Street Journal the other day I wrote:

In my lifetime I’ve been right about some things and wrong about others. But here is one thing I feel certain about: the absolutely worst thing we can do in health policy is to make health care free at the point of delivery and try to supply all the care people demand at a price of zero.

In the Wall Street Journal the other day I wrote:

ObamaCare says that health insurance must cover the tests and procedures recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. What would that involve? In the American Journal of Public Health (2003), scholars at Duke University calculated that arranging for and counseling patients about all those screenings would require 1,773 hours of the average primary-care physician’s time each year, or 7.4 hours per working day.

In other words, doctors will be spending virtually all of their time giving tests to healthy people! They will have no time to do all the other things we want doctors to do.

Here is Aaron Carroll’s response:

Look, there’s nothing inherently wrong with what he’s saying. The issue I take with the piece is that the problem he’s describing has absolutely, positively nothing to do with ObamaCare.

We have a doctor shortage in the United States. There are too many people who want to see a doctor, and not enough doctors to see them. This means that sometimes people have to wait to see a physician. This happens now.

I report. You decide.