There is a disturbing story in Today’s NYT about a severe looming doctor shortage that will make treatment ever more difficult to obtain no matter how universal the coverage. From the story:
Across the country, a factor increasing demand, along with expansion of coverage in the law and simple population growth, is the aging of the baby boom generation. Medicareofficials predict that enrollment will surge to 73.2 million in 2025, up 44 percent from 50.7 million this year. “Older Americans require significantly more health care,” said Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, the president of the Association of American Medical Colleges. “Older individuals are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions, requiring more intensive, coordinated care.”
The pool of doctors has not kept pace, and will not, health experts said. Medical school enrollment is increasing, but not as fast as the population. The number of training positions for medical school graduates is lagging. Younger doctors are on average working fewer hours than their predecessors. And about a third of the country’s doctors are 55 or older, and nearing retirement...But the provisions within the [ACA] law are expected to increase the number of primary care doctors by perhaps 3,000 in the coming decade. Communities around the country need about 45,000.
That got me to thinking again about the cosmetic surgery industry and the medical resources diverted by the sector from truly health related needs. True, except for Buffalo’s school district, insurance doesn’t cover cosmetic procedures. But that is where the money is in medicine because of increasing demand by people to look younger. And that is sucking urgently needed resources—perhaps thousands of doctors, even more nurses, not to mention, surgical centers, etc.—away from providing truly medical (as opposed to “consumerist) services. Not good.
But what to do? It would be best if the culture lost its youth obsession, but don’t hold your breath. Government can’t just close down the sector. But, it could tax it to the hilt like we do cigarettes. If the procedures cost a lot more, the demand would decrease, and perhaps some of the medical resources now devoted to making 65 year-olds look 50, would return to serving patients who truly need them.