Saturday, August 11, 2007

Of rice bowls and men.

Here's an idea whose time has come. Actually, I think it's long overdue, but at least it's here now. Long may it flourish and spread.

What is this idea? Store-based health clinics. Read the link below for the details, but in a nutshell these clinics are nothing less than a free-market reaction to insanely high medical costs. As you might expect, the traditional medical establishment (read monopoly) does not like it one darn bit. Then again, who does like their rice bowl being dipped into?;_ylt=AqGX.Gb8L9586QN74qrBNr4E1vAI

A few quotes, and my comments on those quotes, follow.

“But concerns are rising in the medical industry that these operations remain largely unregulated and are prone to conflicts of interest. Some physicians are also concerned that the clinics could disrupt the continuity of care and result in serious underlying health conditions going undetected.”

Yeah, sure. No doubt these “concerned” physicians are offering their services for free to the indigent, and at a greatly reduced rate to the uninsured, to insure a “continuity of care.” About all they’re concerned about is the threat to their monopoly on health care they’ve enjoyed, aided and abetted by their monopoly enforcer, the U.S. Government, for the last century. We’ll see if the government comes to their aid again.

Honestly, I am thinking that big G may let doctors sink or swim this time, not because they care about competition reducing insane health care costs, but because it takes the heat off of them and the perceived need for universal health care, a losing proposition from the start. Actually, I can see the U.S. Government using this to their advantage (but, in the long run, not to ours) and subsidizing the cost of these quick-care clinics for the poor and uninsured. In time, this will lead to inflated prices due to the middle man, in this case Uncle Sam, shielding the true costs of these services from the concerned individual, just like insurance companies do with individuals today. It's human nature not to be too concerned with costs when some anonymous person or organization is footing the bill.

By the way, how many is “some physicians?” One in five, six in a hundred, twelve in a thousand? I strongly suspect the number is either pretty low, or it is pure conjecture, otherwise the reporter would have given real numbers. If you didn’t catch that, you need to read news stories with a more jaundiced eye .


“In June, the American Medical Association urged state and federal agencies to look into whether pharmacy chain-owned clinics urge patients to get their prescriptions filled on site. That followed buyouts of miniclinics by two big-name pharmacy operators: Walgreen bought Conshohocken, Pa.-based Take Care Health Systems in June, and CVS acquired Minneapolis-based MinuteClinic last year.

Dr. Peter Carmel, a trustee on the AMA board, said "the path of abuse is wide open," and the clinics need to be better regulated.”

Oh, this is rich! The AMA, monopoly-monger extraordinaire, given the mutual back scratching that goes on in doctors’ offices between doctors and the pharmaceutical representatives who constantly push their products via free samples and lavish perks, is one to talk. And all a physician has to do to continue these little gifts is to push whatever products the pharma. rep. suggests. This, of course, is okay, or so one is lead to believe by the AMA’s silence on this suspect practice.

Doubtless Dr. Peter Carmel is speaking from experience about wide open paths of abuse, mainly because his profession practically wrote the book on them.


“AMA also wants to ban the practice of health insurance companies waiving or lowering co-payments for clinic patients, which it calls a conflict of interest.”

I’ll bet they do, and who do you think will do the banning? Why, the muscle behind the monopoly, the FedGov, of course. (As an aside, in a free market no monopoly can exist for long without government coercion.) Whose “interest” are they talking about? It certainly isn’t the consumer/patient's interests. Listen closely to the following economics lesson: the less money one has to shell out for the same service offered at a higher price elsewhere is a good thing, not a bad thing (at least for the consumer).

Consumer choice, aka competition in business parlance, helps keep prices far closer to actual value/worth than any mandated price control could ever hope to. In other words, if the government really wants to do something to control medical costs (or costs in any field), they will embrace competitive endeavors, not eschew them, by keeping their hands off. The only thing the government should be doing is insuring that the public does not fall victim to shoddy or fraudulent practices.


“The AMA denies that its criticism of these clinics is being driven by economic interests, though there's no doubt that primary physicians could lose some business as their insured patients go elsewhere for minor ailments.”

Does the AMA actually believe that any thinking individual is going to buy this? Of course it’s about “economic interests,” that’s what all associations and unions, at heart, are about, and as long as there is a free market for consumer choice, that’s cool. The problem occurs when they seek government intervention to stifle competition so as to artificially keep prices high through a lack of choice.


Wouldn't it be great if I could have one tenth of one percent of the money that's going to be thrown around in the attempt to smother this innovative and consumer/patient-friendly idea in its cradle? I could buy a small island and live the rest of my days in leisure.

Take care.

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