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KIBBE: The president’s magic math
A doctor shortage is a numerical certainty
Question of the Day
Astrong grasp of economics has never been the Obama administration's strong suit, but some of the magical thinking employed in Obamacare is staggering in its ignorance of the basic ideas of supply and demand.
Take President Obama's pledge that if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, coupled with promises of universal health insurance coverage for all Americans. Simple arithmetic will reveal that something just doesn't add up. Adding more patients to a fixed number of doctors will inevitably lead to a subtraction somewhere else in the equation.
Anyone who has ever made an appointment with a general practitioner has noticed that these folks are not swimming in leisure time. Some appointments must be made months in advance just to begin a conversation about a health issue. With no increase in the number of doctors, we are expected to think there will be no shortages?
The math just doesn't add up.
At the very least, wait times for appointments will increase dramatically — an unintended consequence that will worsen if the number of practicing doctors drops under Obamacare, as many have predicted.
The government can pass as many laws as it likes to mandate insurance coverage, but there is no way to force a person to practice medicine. We cannot legally compel a person to work against his will.
This is the problem with trying to use government to guarantee "rights" that require the services of others. The rights envisioned by the Founding Fathers — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — require no active participation on the part of others. In fact, they do the complete opposite, preventing others from interfering with your private business.
Laws like Obamacare mandate the supply of a good or service, at the expense of the provider. If we recognize a right to food, sooner or later, we must aggress against grocers. If we recognize a right to housing, we must aggress against landlords. If we recognize a right to medical care, we must eventually force doctors to practice medicine at the pleasure of the federal government.
Government policies artificially hold down the supply of doctors as it is. The onerous educational and licensure requirements for practicing medicine, along with the American Medical Association's active efforts to limit the number of doctors, make the process of becoming a professional physician extremely costly. It takes between 11 and 14 years to acquire a medical license from start to finish. Such barriers to entry reduce competition and keep prices higher than they would otherwise be.
What we are witnessing, then, is a government that is artificially reducing the supply of doctors, while at the same time artificially increasing the demand for medical services. Any first year economics student could predict the result of such a policy: higher prices. The administration has also promised to keep prices down, which would result in a shortage of medical services.
Mr. Obama's magic math just doesn't add up, and the most extraordinary part of the trick is that they thought nobody would notice.
Now that the data is starting to come in, the numbers are impossible to ignore. Health insurance premiums have already seen dramatic increases since Obamacare went into effect in October with costs rising across the board, especially for young people. What's worse, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortage of 45,000 primary care doctors and 46,000 specialists by 2020.
Political expediency, willful deception of the American people and a stunning ignorance of basic economics have left us saddled with a health care law that attempts to defy the laws of supply-and-demand economics in every conceivable way. The "Affordable" Care Act makes prices higher, doctors scarcer and health insurance options limited.
The only chapter in which Obamacare will be found in future basic economics textbooks will be a case study in what not to do with health care reform.
Matt Kibbe is the president and CEO of FreedomWorks and author of "Hostile Takeover: Resisting Centralized Government's Stranglehold on America" (William Morrow, 2012).
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