The Protectionists are Worried About Doctor Shortages

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Wednesday, 24 October 2012 14:32

Bloomberg had a lengthy article warning of looming doctor shortages in the years ahead. Remarkably the piece never once mentioned the possibility of bringing more foreign doctors in the country.

Doctors in the United States get paid on average close to twice as much as their counterparts in Canada, Germany and other wealthy countries. The gap between the pay of doctors in the United States and in the developing world is considerably larger. As a result, if we eliminated the barriers that made it difficult for foreign doctors who train to our standards from practicing in the United States, we could count on a large number of foreign physicians entering the country. (It would be a simple matter to have a modest tax on the earnings of foreign physicians in the United States that would be repatriated to their home countries. This could be used to educate more doctors, thereby ensuring that the home country benefited from this arrangement as well.)

We could also make it easier for people in the United States to get medical care elsewhere, for example by standardizing liability rules to ensure that patients will have recourse in the event of malpractice and also establishing governmental licensing agencies to ensure the quality of care in other countries. Also, Medicare could have enormous savings if it allowed beneficiaries to buy into the lower cost health care systems of other countries. Having more people getting medical care in other countries will reduce the demand for doctors in the United States.

[Thanks to Steve Hamlin for calling this one to my attention.]