We often hear that governments in the United States should regulate health care more because free markets have made it more expensive than in other countries. It’s true that medical care in the United States is usually more expensive than in other countries, even after accounting for differences in wealth. But the cause is not the free market. For more than half a century, there hasn’t been a free market in health care because governments at both the federal and state levels have heavily regulated doctors, hospitals, and drugs. We propose abolishing virtually all of this regulation so that doctors’ and hospitals’ services and drugs would be more plentiful and cheaper.


This is one of the opening paragraphs of Charles L. Hooper and David R. Henderson, “A Cure for Our Health Care Ills: The Supply Side,” the Econlib Feature Article for October.

One of my favorite paragraphs is this one, written by Charley:

While the majority of physicians are not members of the American Medical Association, the AMA has successfully persuaded the government to limit the freedom of nurse practitioners, midwifes, chiropractors, foreign doctors, and retail clinics to provide economical medical care.7 Foreign medical graduates fill about 15 percent of residency positions. Many more trained foreigners would prefer to practice medicine in this country but are not allowed to under laws that have little or nothing to do with professional competence.8 Even if foreign physicians are allowed to immigrate here, to scale the imposing wall of rules facing them—verifying their credentials, proving English proficiency, passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination, working or volunteering with the purpose of acquiring letters of recommendation, and winning a coveted residency position—takes about a decade. Many simply give up.

One of the difficulties in writing an article such as this is that there’s so much to cover. We reached a little beyond the usual upper word-count limit for Econlib Feature Articles and had a record number of footnotes to back up our case, and still didn’t do a complete job.

Read the whole thing.