Doctor Shortages and Socialized Medicine

Writing for the MSU Capital News Service, Chenqi Guo reports the following:

"Several thousand physicians have left the state after their residency programs or during their practices, according to Gregory Forzley, board chair of the Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS). The situation could be worse since an 8 percent cut in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates was approved on Sept. 30, 2009. The total number of physicians licensed in Michigan is 42,960 and about 27 percent of them work outside Michigan, according to the state's 2009 physician licensure report."

One of the realities driving the push for a government takeover of the American health care market is the unsustainability of current government health care programs, including Medicaid, which provides coverage for low-income persons. (In Michigan, spending on this and related health programs for the poor has skyrocketed from $8.2 billion in 2000 to nearly $13 billion this year.)

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Medicaid is a good example of how "coverage" does not equal "care." In addition to a declining number of doctors, the number of those who report that they accept Medicaid patients is also down, according to the annual survey cited above, from 89 percent in 2006 to 85 percent in the 2009 report. And that was before the last year's compensation cuts kicked in. Also, many of these doctors report that their practice is "full" or "nearly full," and the number of Medicaid patients they actually accept is not reported, so challenges for a person seeking care under this government program (even though he or she has "coverage") are greater than even these figures suggest.

Medicare (the government health program for the elderly) also pays below-market compensation rates to providers, but not as low as Medicaid. The government health care takeover pending in Congress would essentially convert the entire system into a version of Medicare/Medicaid, subject to all the same perverse incentives and dysfunctions.

Single-payer fans always seem to ignore what happens when the forgotten man of socialized medicine — the doctor — just "shrugs" and walks off the job.

(Last fall the Mackinac Center documented the painful consequences suffered by some individuals currently living under such system.)

H/T: John Graham, Pacific Research Institute