>> I don't believe that people would be lining up to go to the doctor when they don't need to go - just because it's "free". <<From my experience as a doc I would refute this. Years ago I worked at a multi-doc clinic in Berkeley where we each took night call for the whole clinic several nights a month. For a reason I never understood ( other than it being Berkeley) , it was free for patients to call in with emergencies at night. It was awful! It was one of the reasons I gave when I finally decided to leave and open my own practice. I'd get woken up all hours of the night because someone's hemorrhoid was hurting or cause they couldn't sleep or cause their 3 year old had a cough ( which they'd had for 4 days and hadn't come in even though appointments were available). After I left they initiated a small fee for after hours calls and a colleague told me the number of calls decreased quite a bit. On a national level I don't know what the answer is but I always felt that patients would be more responsible if they had some connection to the costs they were incuring. People put much more value on their toys and vacations than they do on their health care unless they become critically ill. I used to give people breaks in their fees if I thought they had financial hardships. But I learned my lesson when those same people would show up in the winter with a tan from their 10 day vacation in Hawaii or come in for a sprained wrist that they suffered at the tennnis club.... V.
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