Medical Shortage Crisis (2012 Aug)

by Barry A. Liebling

What if a huge number of physicians become discouraged by the health care environment. What happens if some of the best medical practitioners believe government interference – including but not limited to Obamacare – are making it tremendously difficult for them to be effective?

According to a large survey conducted by the Doctor Patient Medical Association – a free-market-oriented organization – a high proportion of MDs are already highly pessimistic about their future in medicine. The survey reports that 90% of the physicians questioned believe that medicine is on the wrong track, and more than 80% claim that they sometimes think about quitting.

If the survey results are reflective of the general population of physicians a crisis is just around the corner. While the demand for medical services is expected to continue increasing, the supply of qualified medical professionals is not keeping pace and may actually diminish.

The authors of the survey are hoping that health care professionals and health care purchasers will recognize that government-directed medicine is folly. They believe the evidence is convincing – that a fair minded person should be able to see that the best outcome will be achieved if the government conforms to a hands-off policy. They are counting on politicians and voters to see the light and reverse the decades of state meddling in the patient-physician relationship.

The Doctor Patient Medical Association assessment of the problem and solution is essentially correct. However, it will not be convincing to the leftist government-academic-media alliance. The progressive cabal is famous for vowing never to let a crisis go to waste. And a shortage of physicians is precisely the opportunity they will try to exploit with the intention of reinforcing the iron grip the government has over physicians.

Imagine the “urgent call” by progressive politicians to do something about the insufficient supply of MDs. They will say we have to put more students into the medical school pipeline, but we will have to assure that these students are committed to “serving society” and not focused on their own “selfish interests.”

To entice more of the “right kind” of students into the medical profession the federal government could coax medical schools to screen out applicants that do not display the “proper political attitude.” The conditions for attending medical school could be designed with a balance of carrots and sticks. The reward for compliant new physicians who do the government’s bidding, pledge their fealty, and do not make waves could be full scholarships. If a new physician is resistant and does not cave in to government directives he could be penalized by billing him the full cost of medical school tuition. Government bureaucrats will smugly say that no one is being forced into government service – any new physician can leave and practice privately – as long as he agrees to pay back the gigantic debt he owes “to society.” Guess how may young MDs will be defiant.

In the new order a physician who is the product of a full government scholarship with ropes attached will be required to “give back to the community” by taking a position assigned to him by government officials who “know what’s best.”

The net result might be that the brightest most ambitious students will not aspire to a career in medicine. Students who value their independence will select a different career path. But having the average quality of new physicians decline is a small price to pay for progressives who see government control of health care as the primary goal.

Of course, there is a way to win the war for freedom in health care. Citizens must learn to understand and appreciate the fundamental principles of individual rights. Medical professionals – like all professionals and those they trade with – should be free to pursue their own interests. Physicians, like all citizens, are not the property of the state to be used as tools for the “social good.” Everyone should have sovereignty over his own life.

Suppose a huge number of Americans embraced the philosophy of personal freedom. There would not be a shortage of physicians, but progressives might feel discouraged.

*** See other entries at in “Monthly Columns.” ***

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