Monday, March 20, 2006

The crisis in medicine

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We leave in a small town N. Carolina.
We're fortunate to have access to quite a few specialists and internists, but there are never enough and wait times are often far too long.

Recently I learned one of our specialists has decided to leave. Essentially Medicare slashed reimbursement rates for one of their most important procedures. Private insurers followed quickly. His practice is losing money and he can't afford to keep it open.

Now we won't have his specialty represented. Anyone needing help may have to drive 1-2 hours each time they need treatment within his specialty.

It's quite tragic.

For the last few days I've been thinking about this problem. Frankly, it seems very similar to the crisis in vaccines:

The ultimate issue is whether the government and insurance companies can keep squeezing doctors.

My gut says that the core problem is the government MORE than the insurance companies.

Think about what happened to vaccines:
The government became the sole buyer. It negotiated the cheapest possible prices.
All but 1-2 of the vaccine manufacturers went out of business.
When 1 had a problem in UK, we had no flue vaccines.

Medicare is one of the largest buyers of medical services, although not the only buyer, it has a price setting effect.
Consequently, all our doctor friends are seeing their earnings devastated.
Eventually there will be much more sever medical shortages.

Hopefully it will not be as bad as social medicine. The horror stories there are quite frightening.

I wonder what effect MSAs will have on this problem, they encourage market forces, but if the majority of the medical services seeking population is still publicly insured, the true effect will remain small.

Have a wonderful afternoon,


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