Sons who are in the same professions as their fathers often think they know how to do a better job. This may or may not be the case with Gary Schuster, whose father treated 54,000 patients before he died. Gary's brother is in medicine, too, and now his son, so he may even have a further axe to grind.
Be that as it may, Gary Schuster wants you to know about a simple proposal he has for health care. He thinks that with this proposal, taxpayers can save trillions of dollars.
It may sound simple, but sometimes the simplest things are right in front of us and we neglect to see them as potential remedies for the complex solutions we have come up with.
So here is Schuster's plan.
First, let every doctor in the country have the option of taking one day off a week to serve the poor. In doing so, he or she would lose 20 percent of his or her income. But -- and here's the catch -- he or she would be given tax-free status by the government.
What this means is that the government would allow doctors who served one day a week treating the poor -- the forty-million poor who qualify -- not to pay tax on the income they derive from their medical practice.
What would that cost? According to Schuster, much, much less than the "trillions" already slated.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, there were 208,807 practicing primary care physicians in the United States in 2010. Let's say that number has shrunk a little, as it is getting harder for primary care doctors to stay in business. Schuster says the average tax liability of a primary care physician is around $100,000-$150,000 a year. That means that if all of them took this offer, the government would lose about $20-$30 billion.
If some specialists joined in, the government would lose more.
But the uncanny advantage of the plan would be that the government would not have to create an entirely new system, including new medical schools, to take care of the 40 million poor. It would cost much less, overall, than the system we are now heading for.
Additionally, says Schuster, the government would be tasked with finding empty buildings, converting them to clinics for the doctors to work in on their days of service, and staffing them with technicians, secretaries and maintenance workers. The program, he argues, would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, perhaps more.
Obviously, the actual details of the plan, he adds, would have to be worked out by the financial experts in the government. Perhaps they could seek private funding in a hybrid arrangement to open the new clinics.
Schuster is a physician, not a policy maker. But with 31 years in the field, including the years he spent working with his father and his brother, in the first triple-member family practice in Washington State, he thinks he has some ideas.
They may be innovative. They may have a few holes in them. He merely wants to get them out there.