Doctors Without Government?

One of the arguments I’ve heard made against government involvement in healthcare is that because physicians have spent many years in expensive and difficult training for the profession, it’s simply wrong for government to restrict how they practice medicine or what they charge to do so.

Well, I never said it was one of the more intelligent arguments I’ve heard.

Of course government is going to restrict the practices of physicians. There are restrictions on all professions impacting public safety, be they doctors, engineers, chemists or police; hell, plumbers are subject to regulation. It’s silly to suggest that because someone has spent a lot of time, money and effort becoming educated they shouldn’t be subject to restrictive laws. Physicians have special privileges and special restrictions by virtue of the special requirements and potentials for abuse inherent to their profession; they’re the only people allowed to legally administer most addictive drugs, for example.

There are also governmental restrictions on charges for many goods and services; pointed examples are electricity, water, and shelter, because the reason they are fiscally controlled is the same reason that health care costs are controlled in other countries; they are seen as vital to the public welfare. Doctors still make handsome livings in those countries though; the training is difficult in any country (whether it’s expensive depends on how publicly funded the educational system is, of course), and the easiest way to ensure a good supply of students willing to tackle it is to make it fiscally rewarding in addition to the rewards of social respect and pride in service.

In any case, the argument particularly fails as a reason to maintain the status quo here in America, since physicians are already effectively told what they can and cannot do, and how much they can charge, under the current system. The only difference is that they are being controlled so by large privately owned insurance corporations with effective regional monopolies, organizations responsible only to their own shareholdrs and board directors, rather than by a government which is responsible to all citizens.

Well, in theory anyway. At the moment it appears much of the government thinks they’re responsible only to the biggest campaign contributors. If enough people got worked up about it maybe that could be changed, too.

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~ by B.T. Murtagh on September 2, 2009.

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