More Socialism Please

by Brien Jackson

Via DDay, this Washington Post report on the shortage of primary doctors reminds me of a fairly salient point that needs to be made often in the healthcare reform debate; it really is true that almost no one is proposing a package that even remotely resembles “socialized healthcare.” Socializing healthcare would involve the government directly employing providers and running facilities, and I don’t see anyone looking to get into that, at least not now. And that’s actually a real shame, for the reason this article gets at. Primary care is just not a money making endeavor. Overhead and administrative costs are high, and the marginal benefits are drastically lower than for those of specialists. So for anyone going through medical school, you’re looking at the prospect of making an awfully lot more money by specializing, as opposed to going into general practice. Which isn’t bad at the micro level, but ultimately you come away with a real shortage of general practioners, and that’s not a good thing for the system.

One thing we really could do to alleiviate this problem, and subsequently lower costs elsewhere in the system, would be to establish a robust system of primary care facilities available on a universal basis to provide basic care. On the one hand, by making vaccines, check ups, and simple everyday care more available, you’d be increasing public health outcomes in a meaningful way. On the other hand, you’d instantly create new jobs in nursing and primary care, which would yield obvious economic benefits. There really isn’t any downside to doing it, even on an industrial basis. But it still won’t happen, because that would be socialism, and having no socialism is much more important than making sure your co-worker can get treated for that communicable disease they’re walking around with. I mean, is staying flu free really worth socialism to you?