Health care providers might be able to expand the supply of care quickly and easily – if regulators encourage use of nurse practitioners and other mid-level health professionals.
Three economists – Thomas Buchmueller, Sarah Miller and Marko Vujicic – come to that conclusion in an informal working paper published behind a paywall on the National Bureau of Economic Research’s website.
Buchmueller, a professor at the University of Michigan business school, and his colleagues, studied the flexibility of the supply of health care in this country by looking at what happened when some states dramatically expanded access to Medicaid dental benefits.
The economists found dentists were able to provide care for the newly insured patients, and earn more money without working significantly more hours, by hiring dental hygienists.
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Because hiring hygienists was so effective at amplifying the supply of care, a 10-percentage-point increase in the number of people with coverage translated into an increase in typical appointment wait times of just 0.7 days, the economists found.