Friday, October 24, 2008

If Elected President, I Will...

Free Market Physician's guide to solving the "Health Care Problem"

Of course we recognize that the fix that health care needs is not within the constitutional powers of the president of the United States. Any comprehensive plan that a presidential candidate offers is probably going to throw a wrench in the economy and is possibly unconstitutional as well.

What we offer is the hard, but true, solution to the health care problem. It's hard because it is not just an executive or legislative fix. Our congressmen are not going to pass a bill that makes health care affordable and available for everyone. No, the solution is to be found in the market and it requires politicians to do the thing that is most difficult for them- to untie our hands and stay out of the way.

And just to be clear, let's specify what the Health Care Problem really is. It is high prices due to a lack of supply of medical care. So without further ado, here are our three recommended actions for solving the Health Care Problem.

1) Remove the legislation of discrimination that denies non-traditional providers access to the field.

Spurred on by the physicians of the American Medical and American Osteopathic Associations, many state legislatures have passed strict laws regulating the practice rights of physicians assistants and nurse practitioners. Many physicians see them as a threat to their practice and believe that an unregulated medical market is somehow an infringement on their rights as physicians. However, the right to a monopoly of the medical market does not exist.

NP's and PA's, those "masters of the mundane," have the incredible potential of filling the gap in America's primary care services. Their education is less extensive than that of DO's and MD's, it takes less time, and it costs less to receive. They have the potential to drop the floor out of the costs of primary care, offering general care at a fraction of the price charged by traditional physicians. They have the potential to work for traditionally underserved populations, opening branches of practices in new locations.

NP's and PA's cannot do everything a doctor can do. They practice within a scope defined by their education, by their licensing, and especially by the market. If they provide competent medical care at low prices, the market will be very likely to reward them.

2) Remove state regulation preventing physicians from competing against each other.

In what other market is non-competition so actively advocated and enforced as in the medical market? We now have the natural effects of these efforts- a market that is not truly a market. The deliberately-limited supply of physicians and the lack of competition between physicians creates artificially high prices in health care. The medical economy is not consumer friendly. In fact it's nearly impossible to shop around. Medical prices are hard for consumers to verify, illegal for doctors to compare, and made homogeneous by insurance companies.

But remove regulations preventing physician competition, and you will see doctors scramble to please patients. Prices will be dropped, advertised, compared, and then dropped even lower. Doctors will be forced to show ingenuity in the administration of their practices, cutting waste across the board. Now empowered, consumers will swap their comprehensive health insurance plans for catastrophic plans and personally shop for price and quality. Health care prices will drop again.

3) Take the philosophical burden of patient care and place it firmly on the patients' shoulders.

After almost a century of modern medical grind, doctors are realizing that they can no longer be responsible for our patients' health. We deeply desire to keep our patients healthy and we've gone to extraordinary means to promote that health. In our frustration, we have tried to control our patients lives. We have tried to control patients by professional authority, we have tried to control patients by barring other practitioners from the markets, we try to control patients by by lobbying state and federal legislatures to pass laws regulating behavior.

We have had success in convincing them. Patients now see us as responsible for their health as well. This fact is evident in the call schedules we keep and in the onslaught of lawsuits we face. But the burden of responsibility for patient care is one we cannot truly carry. It always was the patients' and it must return to them.

When the true responsibility for patient care is established, medical care will be revolutionized. Doctors will see a reduction in status and income, but they will also see a reduction in call hours, malpractice suits, and headaches from dealing with insurance companies. America will find itself healthier and with a more efficient and less costly medical system. This truly is the final solution for all of our national woes- personal responsibility. The sooner this responsibility is acknowledged, the sooner this nation can begin to truly resolve the problems at hand.

Rusty Scalpel

2 comments:

Brian said...

The principles at stake here are agency and accountability which are both essential characteristics of a free market and society. However, much of the country is obliged to exchange this lasting freedom for temporary security ("free" health care, etc.). Thus it is time to reassess the way we live and the way we vote if they are not both in accordance with those principles or we will relinquish our ability to choose even further. Nice work getting these ideas out there Rusty Scalpel.

Stephen Gashler said...

I wonder if there's a practical solution for turning the responsibility of personal health over from doctors to patients. Does anyone know of a standard and comprehensive website that anyone can turn to that would generally be just as productive as calling one's doctor? Perhaps the establishment of wikihealth.org could revolutionize the world. Maybe I'll do it.