The Cost of Protectionism: Limited Choice of Doctors and Hospitals

November 21, 2013

The United States pays roughly twice as much for its doctors as people in other wealthy countries. The reason is that physicians in the United States use their political power to limit the supply of doctors both by restricted med school enrollments and excluding foreign trained physicians. (Yes, 25 percent of U.S. physicians are foreign-trained. Without protectionist measures that number could be more than 50 percent — just like with farm workers.) As a result of this protectionism almost one-third of doctors are in the richest one percent of the income distribution and the overwhelming majority are in the top 3 percent.

The profession is so powerful that papers like the Washington Post never even point out the obvious role of protectionism in an article that discusses limited access to physicians, like this one. It would be great if the media were allowed to talk about free trade even when it hurts the interests of the rich and powerful.


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