The Spectacle Blog

A Massachusetts Health Care Lesson

By on 4.7.08 | 10:07AM

On Saturday, the New York Times ran a piece on the shortage of primary care doctors, noting that "in Massachusetts, in an unintended consequence of universal coverage, the imbalance is being exacerbated by the state's new law requiring residents to have health insurance." It may be unintended, but it sure shouldn't be seen as unanticipated that subsidizing health care for more people would lead to long lines and a further strain on supply.

The article centers around the practice of family physician Dr. Katherine J. Atkinson, whose calendar is so backed up, that the next available appointment isn't until May 2009. At the end of the article, she laments the fact that government-run health care programs do not reimburse her adequately:

"I calculated that every time I have a Medicare patient it's like handing them a $20 bill when they leave," she said. "I never went into medicine to get rich, but I never expected to feel as disrespected as I feel. Where is the incentive for a practice like ours?"
So in other words, through existing socialized medicine programs, the government is removing financial incentives for doctors who want to become primary care physicians and thus reducing their supply, and then Massachusetts came along and decided to require everybody to obtain health insurance, and to heavily subsidize it. And we're supposed to be surprised by the results?

I've been hard on Mitt Romney on this blog, but I'll give him credit for one thing. By making such a mess of things in Massachusetts, those of us who still consider ourselves free market conservatives have a real life example to point to that demonstrates why government mandated universal health care is a recipe for disaster. Or, at the very minimum, the failure of RomneyCare will make it easier to argue against the more squishy conservatives who believe that the only way to stop socialized medicine is to settle with liberals for "the best we can get."

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