Arnold Kling  

A Re-importation Parable

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Edward Lotterman tells fellow Minnesotans a parable to try to help them understand drug re-importation.


The incomes of U.S. surgeons are substantially higher than those in any other country in the world.

U.S. hospitals could save consumers tons of money by flying in rotating squads of Brazilian and German surgeons to operate on U.S. patients at half or less of what U.S. surgeons charge.


Actually, the parable would be that U.S. surgeons would be sent overseas and subject to price controls, and then flown back to the U.S. to do surgery at price-controlled rates.

Steve Verdon has a further thought on price controls in medicine.


if you want to control for the dollar expenditures you can increase the opportunity costs. Triple the wait times. Will you want to go see the doctor when you think you have bronchitis if it means a 2.25 hour wait vs. a 3/4 hour wait?

It is important to remember that the United States is not necessarily close to a free market in health care. For example, you do not need a medical degree to be able to administer and read a test that will diagnose a child for strep throat. But in the U.S., only a licensed physician is allowed to write the prescription for the antibiotic treatment. These sorts of rules and laws serve to support the incomes of medical professionals while raising costs to consumers.

For Discussion. Do the requirements for licensing of medical professionals provide sufficient public benefits to justify the adverse effect that it has on the efficiency of health care delivery?


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CATEGORIES: Price Controls



COMMENTS (7 to date)
Lawrannce George Lux writes:

Do the requirements for licensing of medical professionals provide sufficient public benefits to justify the adverse effect that it has on the efficiency of health care delivery?
______________________----
It actually does not! Military Studies, quite well hidden, suggest a 11-month training program is sufficient to raise a College Graduate in Biology to a Proficiency level equivalent to a Doctor. Medical schools expect all Licensed personnel to be able to cut up a Corpse. They also severely limit the accepted Student levels of attendence.

The preventive nature of Malpractice is also particularly ineffective. A medically-trained Navy Seal or Green Beret can be sued as easily as a Doctor. lgl

dsquared writes:

But in the U.S., only a licensed physician is allowed to write the prescription for the antibiotic treatment. These sorts of rules and laws serve to support the incomes of medical professionals while raising costs to consumers.

D'you not think that every bod and his wife prescribing antibiotics for everything might, in the fullness of time, have something of a cost to consumers?

Steve writes:

Ah, I just love you free traders. Free trade in EVERYTHING, human labor, cars, shoes, etc.......except drugs and national currencies, right?

This anti-reimportation is just more double standards from the free traders. You guys are worse than the French.

Mcwop writes:

LGL,
My wife is an RN and spent considerably more than 11 months training to become proficient. I would not want a nurse tending to me without some measured level of knowledge. It could easily kill you.

Bernard Yomtov writes:

Shouldn't your parable be that US surgeons who want to sell their services in Canada have to accept Canadian rates, even for Americans who travel to Canada for surgery? You make it sound coercive, yet no one forces the pharmaceutical companies to sell their wares in Canada.

John writes:

No it isn't about free trade or anything like that, sorry. The Pharmas can do what they want, not allowing legal re-importation allows the Pharmas to not have to play the bad guy and limit the quantity they sell to our neighbors.

Restricted medical licensing is all about controlling the supply of physicians, it isn't even remotely about the quality. Just ask yourself how many kids take the MCATs multiple times, how many apply multiple times before getting into med school. Do you really think that additional year or two bulking up their application really makes them a better doctor? Ask your self another question: at which point in a routine medical exam do you need a access to a trained surgeon? Given the arsenal of diagnostic kits in use why not allow an RN to handle routine medical care. While I absolutely want an MD doing the job in te case of open heart surgery, I really don't need one to take a punch biopsy on a mole.

That said I am not suggesting that physicians bear the whole blame for our astronomical medical costs, or that they do not play an important role.

Boonton writes:

Lotterman's column does not address the reimportation issue. Why should US citizens not be allowed to buy products from other countries, even if they were originally made in the US?

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