Monday, January 24, 2011

Do We Need Medical Licensing At All?

Imagine this scenario. You were born and raised in India. You excel at school and you graduate high school at the top of your class. You go on to college and study to become a doctor. You go through all the tests and the training and you become a well paid doctor. At 40, you decide that you want to move to the United States. When you come to the United States, you now have to go through all the licensing procedures again. You cannot simply start working, the government needs to certify you. Inefficiency? This is not a bad example of it.

To put the point forward simply, medical licensing is unnecessary and a waste of resources. Generally speaking, what good does it do? Imagine the case of a world without medical licensing. You would probably go to school and then graduate and start working for a company in some introductory position. Eventually you move up in the company and you could switch companies if you wanted to. The system would operate very similarly to the way corporate jobs work today.

But what about those who are not qualified to be doctors? They could practice all they want to the detriment of us all! Well, not really. After all, if you could to the hospital which hires qualified doctors that they trust, you're more likely to go there than to get your headaches checked out by Sam, the random guy you found in the phonebook. Not to say that individuals could not build up their reputations and work individually, but the real issue here is that trust would be a big part. The problem of unqualified doctors would not be a problem because no one would go to see them.

So what is the advantage? An assurance of medical competency? Private companies could easily do that. We don't need the government to do quality control on our computers, but we buy them from companies and we usually get a good product. There are no advantages to medical licensing, but there are plenty of disadvantages.

For this, we only need to look at the practical example. Look at medical licensing and schools in this country. A prospective doctor must first go to college, and to get a degree from an accredited institution he must take a performing arts class, a social studies course, English classes, and many other irrelevant classes. This is a waste of time. We do not need doctors that can tell you what Iago symbolizes in Othello. Why do we waste sparse resources and drive up the cost of their education in the process? Then we have the problem of licensing being controlled by the AMA who has it in their best interest to limit the number of doctors so as to keep doctor salaries high.

Licensing has been, is, and always will be a terrible idea. We gain nothing and the process allows corruption and inefficiency. The only reason that we continue this ridiculous system is to satisfy doctors and so that politicians can win elections (ending medical licenses would be a loser politically because people vote with their first emotions rather than really thinking an issue out). For we the people, it does nothing but drive up the cost of medical care by limiting the number of doctors.


  1. I agree with you but I doubt you'll find many that do. The AMA has no competition and as a result the laws of supply and demand don't work.

  2. I'm sure most people won't agree with me. But if I go for a conservative proposal then I'll get limited results. If I push for something a little more radical, then I probably still won't get radical results, but I might just get better results than I could otherwise. One can dream, though.

  3. I disagree with the idea that medical licensing isn't necessary at all.

    I do agree with the idea that medical licensing should be open to anyone who has taken the time to obtain the body of knowledge and experience that would allow them to successfully treat and diagnose people, and not only for people who obtained that knowledge through a particular institution (medical schools).

    Although I strongly support free markets and individual choice/responsibility, I also recognize that the free market is an idealization that cannot be applied indiscriminately to existing social institutions.