Physician Bank

MICHAEL E. JOHNS

April 01, 1993|By MICHAEL E. JOHNS

The ''Physician Bank'' is a dramatic new idea that could reduce U.S. health-care expenditures.

It would be modeled on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ''soil bank'' program, which has compensated farmers for leaving land fallow instead of planting wheat and other grains. In the same way, government payments would be made to physicians in exchange for the physicians' not practicing medicine.

While physician payment accounts for less than 20 percent of current health-care expenditures, physicians' professional activities account for more than 80 percent of every health-care dollar. Thus, by paying physicians not to practice medicine, the program will generate $3 of savings for every $1 paid to those who enter the physician bank. The physician-bank program could save over $100 billion in its first year of operation.

A further efficiency dividend might be realized by tapping the Department of Agriculture, whose bureaucracy has grown despite the decline in numbers of farmers, to administer the physician-bank program.

The Clinton administration is understood to be already studying the possibility of expanding the ''bank'' principle to the Justice Department, where a ''lawyer bank'' might reduce the economic drain of litigation in the United States.

Michael E. Johns, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, wishes everyone a happy April 1.

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