Business Week on waiting times in the US

An article in today’s Business Week (The Doc’s In, but It’ll Be a While) examines the issue of waiting times for health care in the US.

One of the most repeated truisms about the U.S. health-care system is that, for all its other problems, American patients at least don’t have to endure the long waits for medical care that are considered endemic under single-payer systems… But… waiting times in the U.S. are often as bad or worse as those in other industrialized nations… In addition, 48 million people without insurance do not have ready access to the system.

The article’s author, Cathy Arnst, interviewed me for the story. She’d seen a commentary I’d written about a well-insured patient who had to wait for care, and I let her know about some data sources to back up the anecdotes.

Changing demographics are only worsening the problem. Patients are getting older and sicker and requiring more care. But a new generation of doctors, half or more of them women, is no longer interested in working long, grueling hours. Low insurance reimbursements and heavy paperwork loads also limit physicians’ willingness to see any patient any time. And tightening immigration rules have limited the number of foreign-born doctors entering the U.S. “There are restrictions on the supply side and growing demand, so longer waits are going to be inevitable,” says David Williams, a consultant with MedPharma Partners in Boston.

There are a couple of key takeaways for me:

  1. Americans may have more in common than we think with Europeans and Canadians who go overseas to avoid waiting times
  2. It reinforces my conviction that Americans shouldn’t look down their noses at health care provided elsewhere. We know we spend more in the US. The evidence on what we get for that extra spending is pretty thin
June 22, 2007

4 thoughts on “Business Week on waiting times in the US”

  1. we are reaping what we sow.

    We value doing over thinking so we get more do-ers and fewer thinkers.

    We don’t want to train our residents to work long hours and they come out of residency not willing or able to work the long hours that providing quality care requires.

    We ask our trainees to pay a kings ransom for their education and they come out with the need to service their crushing debt.

    We emotionally and financially ruin physicians if they fall short of perfection as determined by who has the more talented lawyer and we are surprised when they overutilize to try to protect themselves

    As long as we have a free market, the folks talented enough to become phsycians will also be smart enough to adjust to circumstances.

    The only solution seems to be a 100% government takeover of the 1/7th of the economy that is the healthcare system that makes the outside practice of medicine a felony such as it used to be in Canada. Otherwise the talented folks will work outside the system. whether or not you could get those same talented folks into the system in the first place is another question altogether. The only way to do it would be to do as they do in Canada; free medical training, malpractice protection, and equality of reimbursement.

    Only when things get really bad will folks give up their lottery/entitlement mentality and approve of such a system. In the meantime, people will have to settle for the care they can get whether than the care they want.

  2. The doctors in Canada do not get free medical training….They pay for their education then there is the time they do their internship of extremely long hours to get their full MD….I spent 4.5 months in the hospital..and i watch those young interns spend 24/7 to get all their knowledge…Believe me they did not get anything for free from the Canadian government..except hard work…….

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