Monday, December 19, 2016

NAFTA For Doctors

Okay, this is one of the crazier ideas I've read in awhile. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, laments in the LA Times that doctors make too much money. He bemoans that the North American Free Trade Agreement has decimated the ranks of blue collar and factory workers here in the U.S. because the treaty allowed corporations to use cheap labor outside the country to lower their costs. In a fit of inspiration, Mr. Baker asks why we can't do the same thing to doctors. Why can't we allow cheap foreign medical graduates to flood the American landscape to lower healthcare costs?

As the writer sees it, there are several good reasons to promote this plan. It's unfair to discriminate against perfectly well trained doctors from foreign countries to practice here. If it wasn't for the protectionist practices of our medical organizations, these fine young doctors would be here already taking care of the unmet needs of millions of patients. Why must the only way to practice medicine here is through an American residency program?

Then there is the awful amount of money physicians make in the U.S. We make twice as much money as other doctors in First World countries. The way to lower our incomes and promote income equality is to bring in competition. A two for one special. Anybody who argues otherwise is not a true believer of fair trade practices. These discriminatory policies cost the country $100 billion in higher labor costs. Imagine the savings if foreign doctors were allowed to see patients for a fraction of what American doctors charge.

He believes that the only downside to his plan is that this would cause a severe brain drain to other countries. All their smart doctors will clamor to our shores to set up shop, causing their native countries to lose healthcare access. His solution to this problem? Taxes of course. He would tax the incomes of these foreign doctors and return the money to their home countries so they can train even more doctors, who of course will want to come here to work too.

I don't even know where to begin to comment about this asinine idea. It hits all the liberal ideologies about taxes, income inequality, protectionism, and racial discrimination. All I can say to Mr. Baker is that there are plenty of doctors just south of the border that he can go see. Let him put his money where his mouth is and take his family's health needs to Tijuana or Ciudad Juarez. He will then be doing his part improving the healthcare system of this country by decreasing its burden by one family and improving the livelihoods of the Mexican doctors and nurses. Somehow, like most limousine liberals, I doubt he will follow his own prescription.

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