Thomas Sowell

The confusion between lowering costs and refusing to pay the costs can have a real impact on the supply of doctors. The real costs of medical care include both the financial conditions and the working conditions that will insure a continuing supply of both the quantity and the quality of doctors required to maintain medical care standards for a growing number of patients.

Although younger doctors may be trapped in a profession that some of them might not have entered if they had known in advance what all its pluses and minuses would turn out to be, there are two other important groups who are in a position to decide whether or not it is worth it.

Those who are old enough to have paid off their medical school debts long ago, and successful enough that they can afford to retire early, or to take jobs as medical consultants, can opt out of the whole elaborate third-party payment system and its problems. What the rising costs of medical liability insurance has already done for some, other hassles that bureaucracies and politicians create can have the same effect for others.

There is another group that doesn't have to put up with these hassles. These are young people who have reached the stage in their lives when they are choosing which profession to enter, and weighing the pluses and minuses before making their decisions.

Some of these young people might prefer becoming a doctor, other things being equal. But the heady schemes of government-controlled medicine, and the ever more bloated bureaucracies that these heady schemes will require, can make it very unlikely that other things will be equal in the medical profession.

Paying doctors less and hassling them more may be some people's idea of "lowering the cost of medical care," but it is instead refusing to pay the costs-- and taking the consequences.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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