What Will the Doctors Do?

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Getting more
for less is what our economic well being is all about, assuming
we acquire more through greater productive effort rather than from
plundering our fellow citizens. While the coming government involvement
in medical care has received extensive news coverage regarding its
costs, its impact on the Federal budget, its many specific exemptions,
and its mandated provisions, one of the most important aspects of
Obamacare has seen scant coverage…. What will the doctors do?

How will private
practice physicians respond as politically imposed prohibitions
and fee-lowering mandates are imposed upon them? The answer to that
question is going to be a harsh economic lesson with both unseen
and unintended adverse consequences. Whenever any valuable commodity,
in this case personal medical care, gets treated as a free good
the result has been and always will be economic chaos.

Without question
Obamacare will surely increase the demand for medical services from
millions of new patients seeking personal care for little or no
cost to them. But who will supply these additional services? Virtually
ignored in public debate is how government mandated free medical
care will impact on the professional behavior of private medical
practitioners. One of the most fundamental principles of economics
gives us the answer to that question: As prices fall, more will
be demanded and less will be supplied.

Medical service
is not a free good, but when treated as such by arbitrary
government edicts, its future supply will be undermined and severely
reduced both in quality and quantity. Doctors are dedicated but
they are not saints or dullards. They, like everyone else, will
respond to getting less by offering less. While inertia may slow
the process of a shrinking supply of medical care as lower mandated
fees and arbitrary edicts are imposed upon doctors, inevitably a
decline in medical care and its quality will be the ultimate, unintended
result.

 


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Medical care
is a valuable service provided by trained professionals. Often unseen
is what is required for doctors to provide their medical skills
to their patients. At a minimum, at least a decade of schooling
beyond high school is necessary, followed by several more years
of specialized training. During that time not only do doctors forego
an earned income but they also incur large educational debts along
the way. People who have the endurance and ability to achieve the
status of a medical doctor do so through great effort by their own
free choice. Believing a new supply of medical doctors will suddenly
appear out of nothing as a free good to meet the coming explosion
of medical care demand is a chimera.

Private physicians
have already experienced the bureaucratic edicts that have been
inflicted upon them through the ubiquitous third-party payment systems
with their falling fees, dictates, and voluminous paperwork. With
the imminent threat of more to come from Obamacare, a flood of doctors
will react to their worsening professional situation by either reducing
their practice of medicine or taking early retirement in utter disgust.
This is the unseen and unintended future outcome which many people
are failing to comprehend today.

Getting something
for nothing by imposing the cost on others may at first appear attractive
to some people, but at what price? When both personal ethics and
economic law are violated by a process of political plunder which
imposes short-sighted partisan edicts on those who will bear the
costs, the outcome to the general welfare is always harmful. Tragically,
the more we become addicted to such a political process, the more
individual liberty with its material well being will be lost along
the way. (Is it possible this may be what Obamacare has really been
about?)

So, where are
we headed? The coming government take-over of medical care is destined
to become an era of doctor shortages, rationing, delays for medical
care, and an undermining of future medical technology and discoveries.
I have little doubt that patients seeking medical care will soon
be hearing that old socialist refrain, “It's free, but we ain't
got none!”

January
5, 2010

Robert
Anderson [send him mail]
taught economics at Hillsdale Collage and was executive secretary
of FEE.

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