A column by Christopher Flavelle, a health-care policy analyst for Bloomberg Government, is simply shocking in its failure to understand how a free markets work, how wages are established in a free market society and how government controls over any prices (including wages) kills incentive and distorts supply and demand, ultimately resulting in less product, poorer quality and log jams.
Yet, here is Flavelle calling for just such government control of physicians wages:
As Democrats and Republicans argue about how to spread the pain of health-care spending cuts, one group has been curiously excluded from the discussion: doctors. There’s good reason to change that.Where does Flavelle get off telling us that primary care physicians should earn more relative to specialists? The only way to really know how the structure between rate should be is to allow the free market to operate and get government out of the healthcare sector. But, instead, Flavelle wants government to micro-manage the sector, a prescription for sure disaster.
Everybody likes doctors. They deliver our babies, treat our ailments and often save our lives. In surveys of public trust, they rate higher than college teachers, police, even clergy, and vastly higher than journalists or politicians. Norman Rockwell painted doctors as kind, patient and wise. You probably hope your child marries one.
That public adulation is one reason why the 2010 health- care law, which imposed immediate and heavy cuts on hospitals, drugmakers and insurers, left doctors relatively untouched. A 1997 law that reduces doctors’ Medicare payments is consistently overridden by Congress. And none of the proposals for entitlement reform now circulating around Washington calls for significant sacrifices from physicians.
It’s worth asking whether doctors, who account for almost one-fifth of health spending, really need the special treatment...
So what’s the answer? One option is to cut Medicare rates for specialists, using part of the savings to fund current rates or even gradual increases for primary-care physicians. That would ease some of the pressure on the broader economy, because Medicare rates affect payments by private insurers. It would also change the incentives that drive so many medical students away from family medicine toward more lucrative specialties.
Another option is to replace the current law on Medicare payment rates, which Congress consistently overrides, with legislation that would reduce payments by a smaller amount for all doctors and link them to the rate of economic growth. Congress has failed to stick to this approach before, but if lawmakers believe their own rhetoric about the dangers of rising Medicare costs, this is one way to act on it...
The solutions aren’t easy. But the question isn’t whether doctors deserve to be paid less. It’s whether they deserve a level of protection that’s unlikely to be afforded hospitals, nursing homes or Medicare beneficiaries.
Excluding doctors from spending cuts means greater sacrifice from the rest of the health-care world -- including their own patients. That’s not a picture Norman Rockwell ever painted.
Sadly, given the current attitudes of most Americans, regarding the need for government to interfere in every sector of our lives, the call by Flavelle for micro-management of the medical sector, will not be limited to him. The calls to further increase regulations and control pay will escalate. For doctors, the Flavelle column should be the signal to start planning to leave the country as soon as possible. Don't think you will get around the government micro-management by not taking medicare patients. At some point, the dysfunctional government system will have far more patients than it can handle. This will become obvious and the government's uncared for sick will be forced upon the rest of the medical industry at government determined wages.
Physicians should read the writing on the wall and head out now, Mexico, the Bahmas, South America should all be considered. Medical tourism for Americans is going to become big, as the government micro-management, regulatory clamp destroys healthcare in the United States.