Doctors per Capita is the Lowest in the US among OECD Countries

Health care in the US is a cruel joke. Among the developed countries, the health care “system” is the worst in the world in terms of pretty much everything from spending to outcomes. One can easily write a voluminous book on the reasons for this disaster that all of us have to deal with. Too many cooks each with its own agenda leads to high cost and not so much improvement in the all important outcome for the patient.

It is possible to get a $0.99 burger anytime in one of the fast joints in the nation. However if one falls sick after eating this and checks into a hospital, he/she can end up paying hundreds even with insurance. One factor that causes health care costs to skyrocket each year is that the supply of doctors are highly restricted. The demand for health care is high but the supply is limited by the American Medical Association. As the number of doctors available is restricted the price of existing doctors goes up naturally for their services. The population of the country increases year after year due to both legal and illegal immigrants. However the number of doctors does not rise accordingly. No wonder the population is forced to deal with physician shortage on a permanent basis.

The following chart shows Doctors per capita in the OECD countries based on 2018 data from a recent research report. The US has the lowest number at just 2.6 doctors per 1,000 people. Norway has the highest at about double that of the US rate.

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Source: U.S. Health Care from a Global Perspective, 2019: Higher Spending, Worse Outcomes? by Roosa Tikkanen and Melinda K. Abrams, The Commonwealth Fund

From the report:

Despite having the highest level of health care spending, Americans had fewer physician visits than their peers in most countries. At four visits per capita per year, Americans visit the doctor at half the rate as do Germans and the Dutch. The U.S. rate was comparable to that in New Zealand, Switzerland, and Norway, but higher than in Sweden.

Less-frequent physician visits may be related to the low supply of physicians in the U.S. compared with the other countries. The U.S. has slightly more than half as many physicians as Norway, which has the highest supply.

The economic consequence of this cartel-like behavior of restricting doctors supply is huge. For instance, millions of productive hours are wasted by workers trying to get an appointment with doctors and then sitting in the doctor’s office for hours waiting for these god-like humans to see the patient. The moral consequences cannot be estimated as millions of Americans skip necessary doctor visits and some even perish due to lack of access to doctors or healthcare. But then again does anyone really care about morality anymore ?

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