In Soviet Russia, Line Waits You

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"In Soviet Russia, Line Waits You"

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That’s part of an advertising campaign launched by an industry group Health Care America who’s agenda is to convince you that government-run health care would be evil. And, of course, it’s true — in systems with government-run health care systems you sometimes need to wait to see a doctor. Much as in the United States you need to wait on line to see a movie. Or how in the United states you need to . . . wait to see a doctor.

I’m fascinated as to what planet the maker of this ad lives on. Back in December I called my primary care physician’s office to schedule an appointment. I got one in mid-March. Such is life. Waiting times are, obviously, a function of supply and demand. The private sector could easily organize an insurance scheme that made it much quicker and easier to get in to see your doctor — your premiums and/or copayments would just need to be way higher. Similarly, just as a government-run subway system can reduce crowding by spending more money to run more trains, a government-run health care system featuring long waiting times for MRIs could . . . spend money and buy more machines.

It’s far from obvious that zero waiting really is the optimal arrangement for all procedures, but one way or another the waiting issue has very little to do with whether or not the system is, in some sense, “government run.” Indeed, my sense is that American Medicare recipients — that’s government run healthcare for the uninitiated — tend to do less waiting than your average person with private insurance.

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