I have said this privately for a while, and now it’s being said openly: one way to drive down costs is to open the US to non-US trained physicians. I have no doubt that will work and is being advocated in a WSJ Editorial today: We Need Free Trade in Health Care – WSJ.com
Yes, I read it, and all those non-US trained docs will be restricted to ‘underserved and rural areas’. Riiight. My legs’ wet, is it raining?
We Need Free Trade in Health Care
By JAGDISH BHAGWATI and SANDIP MADAN
May 27, 2008; Page A19
Health-care reform is a major election issue. Yet while Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama offer comprehensive plans, important gaps remain. Neither plan addresses the need for more doctors, a problem that Gov. Mitt Romney ran into when he introduced comprehensive medical coverage in Massachusetts in 2006.
Comprehensive coverage of the over 45 million uninsured today will require that they can access doctors and related medical personnel. An IOU that cannot be cashed in is worthless.
Massachusetts ran into this problem: Few doctors wanted (or were able, given widespread shortages in many specialties) to treat many of the patients qualifying under the program. The solution lies in allowing imports of medical personnel tied into tending to the newly insured.
This is what the Great Society program did in the 1960s, with imports of doctors whose visas tied them, for specific periods, to serving remote, rural areas. U.S.-trained physicians practicing for a specified period in an “underserved” area were not required to return home.
It is time to expand such programs – for instance, by making physicians trained at accredited foreign institutions eligible for such entry into the U.S. But in order to do this, both Democratic candidates will first need to abandon their party’s antipathy to foreign trade.
It could easily happen.