Saturday, April 5, 2008

The cure is worse than the disease

Years ago during the phony oil shortage motorists waited in line to buy gasoline, sometimes for hours. All sorts of schemes were proposed including buying gasoline only in alternate days depending on your license plate number. With gasoline shortages and high prices, one not so funny joke circulated ridiculing the plight of those needing to use their cars for work and other necessary travel. The story goes that on one occasion a motorist pulled into a gas station complaining to the operator about the high price of gasoline at his station. The motorist said "How come your price is twice the price of the station down the street?" Without batting an eye the station attendant asked "Do they have any gas to sell?" The complaining motorist answered "No". Well said the attendant at the high priced gasoline station, "When I don’t have any gas to sell my price is also lower".

The bogus shortage of oil causing high gas prices at the pump and delays in getting it were a precursor to the difficulty getting health care where health insurance is mandated by states for everyone and an example of what we will face throughout the country if those trying to impose universal health insurance, euphemistically called "universal health care", on all of us succeed.

In Massachusetts, one of the first states to prescribe universal health insurance, one consequence of their universal coverage plan is that its citizens are finding it difficult to impossible to get to a doctor for routine medical needs and even when a visit to the doctor is more seriously needed. The law requiring everyone to have health insurance went into effect last year and since then about 340,000 of Massachusetts’ estimated 600,000 uninsured have received health care coverage; however the problem is that they are finding there is nowhere to get it. Even scheduling appointments has proven to be more difficult than buying gasoline in bygone days of universal gasoline shortages as many search in vain for doctors and to schedule appointments for long-deferred care.

In one recent example described by columnist Kevin Sack Amherst, the "next appointment" available for a physical examination was not until early May – in 2009; the medical profession version of "justice delayed is justice denied". Many doctors are not taking new patients or are being rushed to see many more patients in a day. Straining the time of a doctor visit also places patients at unnecessary additional medical risk. Writer Amherst reported:

"Dr. Patricia A. Sereno, state president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said an influx of the newly insured to her practice in Malden, just north of Boston, had stretched her daily caseload to as many as 22 to 25 patients, from 18 to 20 a year ago. To fit them in, Dr. Sereno limits the number of 45-minute physicals she schedules each day, thereby doubling the wait for an exam to three months." ‘It’s a recipe for disaster,’ Dr. Sereno said. ‘It’s great that people have access to health care, but now we’ve got to find a way to give them access to preventive services. The point of this legislation was not to get people episodic care.’"

For an aging population in Massachusetts and anywhere similar laws are enacted, the United States will need 40 percent more primary care doctors by 2020 to respond to universal health insurance mandates. With the reduction of government assistance to medical schools during the Clinton presidency to support Hillary Clinton’s failed universal health care proposals, the number of medical school graduates in the United States entering family medicine training programs, or residencies dropped to 24% in 2006 from 54% in 1998, according to the American College of Physicians. These changes place additional strains on medical care availability where universal health insurance is mandated. Even though the supply of doctors is being enhanced by foreign medical school graduates and osteopathic doctors, this is still not enough to fill the medical needs of the increased number of the newly medically insured.

Dr. Bruce Auerbach, the incoming president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, testified in congress recently, "It is a fundamental truth — which we are learning the hard way in Massachusetts — that comprehensive health care reform cannot work without appropriate access to primary care physicians and providers".

Despite warnings like this, Democrat legislators and Democrat presidential aspirants want to impose socialized medicine schemes of one sort or another on all of us. If they succeed, the "cure" will be worse than the disease.

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