Saturday, June 28, 2008

Doctors want laws to protect their monopoly

The recent growth of minute clinics staffed by nurse practitioners is causing more so-called state medical associations to propose legislation to kill this threat to the doctor's monopoly.

Economists call this sort of behavior "rent seeking." Basically, it means that docs want to use YOUR govt to limit YOUR healthcare choices by shutting out anyone but doctors.

Link
About 1,000 retail medical clinics have opened their doors at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS/Caremark and elsewhere around the country. Most are open around the clock, don't require appointments and are staffed by nurse practitioners who treat a variety of common ailments. The clinics have been a godsend for patients seeking accessible, affordable and convenient care.

But the powerful Illinois State Medical Society wants to slam clinic doors shut in this state. It has proposed a bill that would regulate these clinics almost to the point of extinction.

The bill would:

•Ban health-care facilities from opening in any store that also sells alcohol or tobacco. Well, there go Wal-Mart, Walgreens and CVS/Caremark as locations for the clinics.

•Require separate restrooms and a "designated receptionist and waiting area." Both would raise the infrastructure costs of many retail clinics to the point that they would no longer make economic sense.

•Ban advertising of fee comparisons and require that no doctor can supervise more than two clinics.

•Set stiffer regulatory requirements for retail clinics than for more traditional health-care operations.

Add it all up and Illinois would be left with a law that pretty much protects the status quo: Traditional doctors' offices would be safe from competition. There would be no chance a retail clinic might actually give health-care consumers useful information about price comparisons.