The president of the Galen Institute, Grace-Marie Turner, has a piece at National Review Online making this criticism of Mitt Romney's health care program in Massachusetts: "it's increasingly difficult to get a doctor's appointment. A recent survey by the Massachusetts Medical Society reveals that fewer than half of the state's primary-care practices are accepting new patients, and the average wait time to get an appointment with an internist is 48 days."
I'm not saying RomneyCare is perfect, or that Mr. Romney should or shouldn't be the Republican Party's presidential nominee for 2012. But as a criticism of RomneyCare, this particular point is a weak one. First, doctors are highly skilled professionals whose training represents considerable government expense. We should want them to be busy, or almost fully utilized, rather than sitting around waiting for the phone to ring while practicing their golf swings in empty examining rooms.
My own experience is that it can be difficult to get a first appointment with a specialist in New York without waiting a month or two, and that's not Mitt Romney's fault. If there are physician shortages, they are the result of national supply constraints such as limits on the number of federally funded residencies and such as restrictions on practice by doctors who did their residencies outside the United States. Doctors like these restrictions because by restricting the supply they push up the price that doctors can charge. But the restrictions aren't Mitt Romney's fault, and if RomneyCare increases pressure to lift the restrictions, that'd be a positive development.
Finally, this "wait time to get an appointment with an internist is 48 days" is a little vague. If this is for an annual check-up, so what? If it's for an urgent health issue, that's another matter, but more likely there is a 48-day wait for an annual check-up or a first-time visit because the doctor is keeping some slots open to see patients with urgent issues. And a 48-day wait may not be the worst thing for some medical issues; by the end of the wait, the virus may be gone and the patient may be better and not even need to see the doctor.