Thursday, January 20, 2011

How the AMA artificially limits the number of doctors

The American Medical Association controls medical schools and licensure of doctors. In other words, this organization can directly control the number of doctors in the United States. It is an organization composed of doctors working for the advantage of doctors. There is a name for such an organization: labor union.

Milton Friedman was one of the most vociferous opponents of the AMA. As he put it, "The American Medical Association is perhaps the strongest trade union in the United States." Obviously the effect of such a union with governmental powers can be detrimental, but how bad is it?

It is very bad. Doctors are still making good salaries in other countries. In the United States, doctors get paid exorbitant salaries. This does not make sense. The demand for these jobs is very high, so we should expect to see a great decrease in these salaries, but it has not happened. Just look at this chart of acceptance rates at medical schools:

There are currently 159 medical schools in the United States. At the beginning of the 19th century there were about 166. We have 4 times the population in this country now than we had in 1900. 4 times the population, yet less medical schools. In terms of the number of doctors, the United States currently has 2.3 doctors per 1000 people. In 1910 there were 1.46 doctors per 1000 people. Yet the services we can provide has expanded greatly.

The number of doctors is an obvious problem as evidence by physician salary by country. This system can and should be fixed. The AMA needs to be seen for what it is, a strong labor union only looking out for its members. Fixing this problem is the first step in fixing US healthcare.


  1. I couldn't agree more. People argue that we have more doctors per 1000 in population than Great Briton yet Great Briton spends only 9% of their GDP on health care, where as, the US spends 17%. All I can say is that the interaction of supply and demand here in the US is such that the price is maintained very high and that is due to the AMA. Great post.

  2. How exactly does the AMA directly control the number of doctors and/or the certification of medical schools? The article is titled "How the AMA artificially limits the number of doctors" but the first two sentences essentially propose it as a given. What process(es) does the AMA employ to restrict the number of doctors?