What good is universal health care without practitioners?  The New York Times discovers that in economically stressed areas, and in specialties that the technocrats would like to keep affordable, there are doctor shortages.
“We have a shortage of every kind of doctor, except for plastic surgeons and dermatologists,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, the dean of the new medical school at the University of California, Riverside, founded in part to address the region’s doctor shortage. “We’ll have a 5,000-physician shortage in 10 years, no matter what anybody does.”
Food for thought there. On one hand, perhaps that's the evil rich outbidding everyone else to make it remunerative to become a high-end cosmetologist. On the other hand, perhaps that's evidence of regulatory and insurance complications trying the idealism of otherwise public-spirited medical students. Or, as the article continues, because difficult patients in rough neighborhoods can be as morale-sapping to health care practitioners as they are to teachers.
But the growth in the number of physicians has lagged, in no small part because the area has trouble attracting doctors, who might make more money and prefer living in nearby Orange County or Los Angeles.
And prices still function to allocate demand.
Physician compensation is also an issue. The proportion of medical students choosing to enter primary care has declined in the past 15 years, as average earnings for primary care doctors and specialists, like orthopedic surgeons and radiologists, have diverged. A study by the Medical Group Management Association found that in 2010, primary care doctors made about $200,000 a year. Specialists often made twice as much.
Should be interesting work for health economists, evaluating the national government's ability to bend the cost curve and realign the incentives so as to produce more primary care physicians and fewer specialists.


Unknown said...

Cosmetologists cut hair. I think you mean cosmetic surgeons.

Stephen Karlson said...

Not at all. The poor person does a peroxide rinse over the bathtub, hopes the Clearasil works, and might attempt to eat right and exercise. The rich person gets implants, liposuction, hair plugs, and Accutane.