The retailer Target is offering physical exams that children need for summer camp for $29 apiece, Mark Perry reports. Professor Perry, who teaches economics, writes, "while President Obama and politicians in Washington dream up the latest grandiose government health care reform to address rising healthcare costs, the most effective, affordable, and convenient solutions might be right around the corner at your local Target store."
Professor Perry brings in some interesting news about what Target is up to, but I think he's a little too sanguine about the policy implications. The Target exams are performed by a physician assistant or a licensed nurse practitioner. A lot of parents will want their child to be examined by a real doctor. That may be one reason why health insurance premiums are expensive, because real doctors get a lot of expensive training and are generally paid more money than nurse practitioners or physician assistants. A camp physical on a healthy child may be something that a pediatrician is overqualified to perform and a physician's assistant is perfectly qualified to perform. The camp physical itself is less an example of children's health care than of regulatory compliance -- whatever government agency regulates summer camps probably requires that the children are vaccinated and that they have no undisclosed health problems on arrival. So there's an argument for letting the nurse practitioner fill out the forms and taking your child to a real doctor once a year for their annual checkup. Some parents who are pressed for cash may choose that route. Still, of all the things to save money on, choosing a less-qualified provider for your child's medical care, for a lot of parents, would probably rank low on the list. In thinking about health care, "affordable" and "convenient" are important to economists and policymakers. But "high quality" is also important and tends to get underrated in some of the policy discussions.