Critical Condition

“Is A.M.A. Support for Health Reform a Bad Sign?”

John Tierney wonders:

The A.M.A. may be one of the most trusted voices by the public in the health-care debate, but some economists argue that it helps perpetuates one of the largest problems with the American system: a cartel that limits the number of doctors. Mark J. Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan, argues that “we would probably go a long way to solving our ‘health care crisis’” if the “medical cartel” hadn’t prevented medical schools from expanding to meet students’ demands for more places. He notes that American law schools responded to the growing population by expanding the number of places available, whereas medical schools shrunk instead. As a result, their rejection rates rose, frustrating students who wanted to be doctors. The result was fewer doctors to care for the growing population, but it was good for those who did get accepted, as Dr. Perry illustrates in a chart showing that salaries for doctors in the United States are double to triple what their counterparts make in Europe.