Saturday, March 13, 2010

Competition - The Key To Medical Care

Today, as the debate continues, it is generally recognized that the most expensive item in health care is the doctor's signature.

We didn't define it so succinctly 35 years ago, but the problem existed way back then, and I wrote about it in a newspaper column entitled "Unprofessional Professionalism".

The Justice Department was investigating professions, including veterinarians, funeral directors, accountants, lawyers, dentists, pharmacists, and physicians. 

I observed that "professionals" didn't live exactly like the rest of us, and that their "fraternal" backscratching was aimed mainly to oppose competition, including advertising.

Back then I was prone to vote Republican, while nowadays I'm prone to vote Democrat. I've always believed in rewards for hard work and use of talents. But I've also supported a fair chance for everybody. Free education and equal opportunity in jobs and society is good for the whole civilization. 

I favor the "free market" concept, but markets are not free when there is deal making or doing anything to limit competition. Republicans and Democratics, liberals and conservatives fail to serve the people when they restrict individual liberties and free markets.

Back in 1975, using the physician as the prime example, I noted that the doctor "fraternity" had authority to regulate the medical schools, including the number of students in those schools. I wrote that engineers may lose jobs during severe economic conditions due to an oversupply of them, but there never has been an oversupply of doctors, because the doctors themselves regulate the supply. 

In 1975 our congressman was aware of the medical deficiencies in our district and noted that Georgia ranked 46th in life expectancy. The Laurens County Hospital Authority wanted to increase their supply of doctors as a solution to their hospital problems. Treutlen County was in trouble with its hospital, which soon closed.

Coincidentally, after the publication of my column, there was a forum, in Soperton, featuring two of the top medical/dental education leaders in the state. My questioning seemed rude to some of those in attendance, but in private the doctors agreed to my supposition about the limited supply of medical students being admitted to medical colleges.

Free markets are essential in America, whether the market be in government, business, union, religion, or any "members only" group. Free markets mean free competition to everyone. That was my status 35 years ago and it remains my status today.

Self-regulation is best, but, as I wrote in 1975, "If a profession cannot serve the public properly by self-regulation, somebody else must do the regulating for them."

For at least 35 years physicians have not demonstrated self-control or profession-control. The lack of competition has driven up costs. It is true in the medical profession, in the medical corporations, in the medical insurance, in hospitals and every doctor's office in the land.

There is general consensus from Washington in both parties that health care, if defeated, will not be taken up for another 10 to 15 years. Is that what we want? to do nothing while costs keep climbing? I urge everybody to contact his/her Congressman and tell him what YOU need! Speak from your personal needs, now and for your future. Be specific.  Let your Congressman represent YOU!  He needs your personal input. Please!

William A. Ricks


Jack E. Josey, Jr. said...

I agree totally. When no one clamors about how excessive a medical bill is because a 3rd party is paying, when consumers do not shop around, or ask how expensive a treatment plan will be, when excessive legal liability for malpractice looms, and when patents are issued for miracle drugs...then the costs will just continue to spiral. The medical profession has insulated itself from free market competition.

Joel Edge said...

I'm all for healthcare reform. The only problem I see with the current effort. There is nothing to limit the cost of medical treatment. We seem to be scapegoating the insurance companies. Bringing down the cost of insurance (which I'm fairly certain this effort won't do) will have no effect on the cost of actual treatment. Price controls would have to used. I don't see that coming. I also don't agree with the effort to make insurance mandatory. I have e-mailed my rep. with my concerns.