• 55°

Watch out for those side effects

Health insurance companies are foul, ugly, greedy, evil, corrupt entities. Not one person in Washington, whether with an R or a D by his or her name, disputes that, so far be it from me to argue the issue.

The vast majority of doctors and scientists, however, are in their careers for the main objective of helping people. Every career field has bad apples and horror stories to color the whole bunch with. In general, though, doctors and professionals working on, discovering and making new, life-saving drugs are not what need to be fixed by our government.

While most doctors and scientists serve a higher purpose than, say, a sports writer, money still is an incentive for all the hard work, just as it is for most Americans out there in the workforce.

The incentive isn’t making money just for the sake of making money. Medical school takes a long time and is very expensive. Paying off the loads of debt isn’t optional.

Then, perhaps a bit after medical-school debt is no longer such a huge concern, come such greedy ideas as saving money so a son or daughter can follow in a parent’s footsteps and go to medical school (with tuition costs having advanced by 25-30 years).

In the last couple weeks, media ranging in size and scope from the News-Herald to the Associated Press have written stories about the fear of doctor shortages, especially primary care doctors.

On the surface, busier doctors signal good news for our nation, right down to the community level. More people should see doctors on a regular basis to keep small problems from becoming major health problems with major expenses.

But using the Census advertising budget for ads to encourage people to go get checkups could’ve had the same effect as taking over everything to do with health care and health insurance. Instead we get saddled with a system that will result in the usual efficiency we’ve come to expect from the federal government.

If some money has to go to Washington and some money has to go to higher health insurance premiums — and if the government has no competition, especially once those insurance companies are dealt with — the equation only leads to less money for doctors and less money to develop new medicines.

Of course, we could just print more money to go around. China could call in all our debt, which could rule that plan out. Inflation’s a confusing thing anyway, so let’s punt it down the field for now.

My basic point is this: Less money means less incentive, no matter the career. In a medical field, it means less incentive to go to school until you’re 28-32 years old, to work hard and to be innovative.

Fewer doctors and fewer new discoveries are certainly not goals of Congress and the White House. Give it a generation or two, though, and these could be the nasty side effects ahead for the nation.

Andrew Giermak is a reporter for the Suffolk News-Herald. He can be reached at andrew.giermak@suffolknewsherald.com.