According to an AP story, researchers have discovered that in all probability lines in emergency rooms will get longer as the new national healthcare plan takes effect. The AP claims that Medicare patients make up the majority of emergency room admissions, and the bill will expand Medicare enrollment.
This comes as no surprise to those of us who believe in simple economic theory. When something is perceived as free, a limit is removed on how much of it people will use. The cost of healthcare tends to keep a lot of hypochondriacs out of the doctor’s office. (It has also been a boon to the vitamin and supplements market.) But once these people no longer have to pay for a doctor to listen to their fictional ailments, they will swarm the system. It has happened in Canada, and it has happened in Massachusetts, where a similar healthcare bill, passed in 2006, has overcrowded emergency rooms.
Massachusetts learned that just because doctor visits are paid for doesn’t mean there will be a doctor to visit. Fixed prices alter the supply-demand curve, because busy doctors aren’t allowed to charge more. Hence, increased demand will not increase the supply of doctors. So all the newly covered hypochondriacs resort to the emergency rooms.
But wasn’t the crowding of emergency rooms one of the tenets that healthcare reform was sold on? Once more, Americans have bought something that the used-car salesmen and the ambulance-chasing attorneys who make up the political class have sold to them. And much like other unscrupulous businessmen, the salesmen will disappear into the night, when we try to enforce the warranty.