We seldom hear about difficulties in finding a doctor, rationing of services and poor‐quality care under universal healthcare schemes — even though such problems are already happening in government‐run programs in California. Individuals insured by state Medicaid programs have “insurance,” but because of low reimbursement rates, they are too often unable to find physicians and specialists who will care for them.
It’s even less often that we hear about another option, the only good option: Using innovation to make healthcare cheaper and more accessible.
When I say cheap healthcare, I don’t mean we should pay physicians less. I mean delivering high‐quality care in less‐expensive ways. Annual physicals don’t need to be done in a high‐priced medical office, for example. And we need to oppose the move requiring audiologists to have doctorates. Patients should have low‐cost options when it comes to getting a simple hearing test. Likewise, we need to repeal laws that require physician assistants, physical therapists and nurse practitioners to have master’s degrees.
One of the reasons healthcare costs are growing is that lobbyists for medical professionals and hospitals use such laws to protect their members from competition. If they keep blocking cost‐saving innovations, it could backfire on them. The public will get so frustrated with the high cost of care that they will demand universal healthcare, which won’t be a picnic for the industry or the rest of us.
The success of retail clinics across the country gives us a glimpse of what innovation can do for patients. Those “convenience clinics” are popping up in CVS pharmacies, at Wal‐Mart and Target. Wal-Mart’s new retail clinics will be “co‐branded” with local hospitals. Staffed by nurse practitioners, convenience clinics provide routine care at affordable prices. (You don’t need an MD to diagnose pink eye or an ear infection.)