Rationing of Medical Services

Professional Ethics, Governmental Regulation, or Markets

by Joseph P. Newhouse

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A commentary on three papers presented at the American Enterprise Conference on Rationing of Medical Services. Examines medical services and the equity of health care: (1) the equity of care in metropolitan areas as opposed to nonmetropolitan areas, and (2) care based on income and need for treatment. Rationing of resources among regions suggests income is an important determinant. Residents of rural areas face more severe rationing of medical services; however, they face such constraints to a lesser degree because many travel to larger regions. Factors involving governmental regulation, markets, and compensation can also affect the treatment of individual patients. Individuals who have different kinds of medical problems may feel differently about the need for treatment. The author contends that equitable distribution of medical services depends on specialists and specialized resources available to determine who gets seen for what type of problem.

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