Healthcare industry protectionism


From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in

Guild-like protectionism has always been very powerful in American health care, which partly explains why our health costs are the world’s highest.  I was reminded of this in reading the May 7  Providence Journal op-ed column “Protectionism only hurts Rhode Island,’’ by Saya Nagori, M.D., an ophthalmologist and medical director of an online app called Simple Contacts. It’s a telehealth technology for glasses and contact-lens users.

She asserts in her obviously very economically self-interested piece, that “79 percent of the time that a contact-lens user visits an optometrist to renew a prescription, they are reissued the  exact same prescription….{But} mobile app platforms like Simple Contacts use technology to administer a basic vision test….{which} is recorded and reviewed by a Rhode Island  licensed ophthalmologist who can renew the patient’s existing contact-lens prescription’’ at far less cost that visiting an optometrist.

Of course, the Rhode Island Optometric Association sees this as a serious threat to members’ revenue stream and has filed legislation to ban use of this technology. It reminds me of the strenuous attempts by some physicians to keep CVS’s Minute Clinics out of Rhode Island (where CVS is based).  Minute Clinics are staffed by nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants rather than by considerably more expensive physicians.

But the protectionists will fail in the end. American health care is just too damn expensive and so more and more patients demand new options.