Last week the Obama Administration announced its plan to reduce payments for Medicare specialists and increase payments to primary care physicians and general practitioners. The move, they hope, will boost the number of primary care physicians by “incentivizing” medical students to choose the field given more attractive paychecks. This means that specialists will see their overall earnings decrease steeply – Cardiologists, for example, can expect a decrease of nearly 11% and payment for certain procedures such as echocardiograms could decrease by more than 40%, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. Never mind that heart disease is the number one killer in America.
There is a reason specialists are paid higher wages – they must complete several years of additional training in order to help people in need of medical attention exceeding that which can be provided by their primary care physician. If there wasn’t a demand for these specialists, their wages would have already gone down. Ask any Medicare patient how long they waited to see a specialist the last time they received a referral – I’m sure they will be able to share a more accurate depiction of that demand curve.
When prices are not guided by consumer preferences but rather through an arbitrary and government designated value system – the government becomes the de facto owner of health care resources. Is this a preview of health care micromanagement under the Obama Public Option Plan?