The failure of RomneyCare, doctor shortage edition 

Among the many problems that a Mitt Romney nomination would pose for conservatives, it would eliminate one of the strongest arguments for repealing ObamaCare -- the mounting failures of the Massachusetts health care law Romney crafted and signed into law. A new study finds massive doctor shortages in the Bay State, leading to longer wait times for patients if they're lucky enough to get a doctor at all.

According to a story by the Associated Press and Boston's WBUR:

BOSTON — If you thought the wait time to see a doctor was getting longer, you’re right. The latest survey from the Massachusetts Medical Society shows that finding an appointment in six of seven specialties is either harder this year or no better than last.

If you’re a new patient and want to see a family physician, about half of all practices aren’t taking anyone new. If you have a public insurance plan, such as Medicare and Medicaid, then you may have some additional trouble receiving care.

The report has serious implications for health care costs in the state, the doctors group said, because patients unable to see a primary care physician are likely to seek more expensive emergency room treatment.

“Massachusetts has made great strides in securing insurance coverage for its citizens,” said the MMA’s president, Dr. Alice Coombs, referring to the state’s landmark 2006 universal health insurance law. “But insurance coverage doesn’t equal access to care.”

(Emphasis mine.)

Keep in mind that one of the primary justifications for the individual mandate -- one used by Romney, Congressional Democrats, and the Obama administration -- is that the mandate is needed so that people don't drive up eveybody's costs by seeking care in the emergency room.

Of course, if you increase coverage without doing anything to address a doctor's shortage, this is bound to happen.

In a free market health care system, access would improve as costs come down from increased consumer choice and competition, while price signals would increase incentives for doctors to go into primary care when there's a shortage.

Of course, if Romney is the nominee, it would make it impossible to use the failures of the Massachusetts experiment to make these arguments.

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Philip Klein

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