There has been a nice little debate in Alberta regarding the pay of doctors, in particular between the left NDP and the UCP conservatives. For the non-Canadians out there, Canada has single payer healthcare, which means there is a single payer of healthcare - the government. Of all the schemes out there, single payer is the most immoral universal health care, but that is a topic for another day.
The conservatives are contending that doctors are way overpaid and must take a pay cut for the sake of helping with the massive budget deficit that Alberta is suffering from. They do have a point. Alberta pays much more than comparable provinces. Alberta also has much lower taxes and much lower real estate costs, so I've seen it argued by the partisans that they're not going to leave because they simply won't be better off.
The NDP contend, when it comes to any government cut, that it is necessary to pay these prices to have the highest quality doctors. Wow, a far left party that actually understands a basic economic principle - that to get the best you have to pay a higher price. If only they conceded this when it comes to the income taxes they'd like to impose on doctors.
The Mixed Economy Effect
This discussion, as a capitalist on the sidelines, is interesting to watch. In Nova Scotia, as an example, this discussion has come up too. Ironically the conservatives and left are on the opposite side. Leftist proport that doctors should want to work for lower pay. That living in Nova Scotia, and doing their duty is more than enough reason to work there - Nova Scotia being an amazing place is pay enough - ignoring the fact that pay is bad, hours are bad, you're taxed to death and you live in a mainly rural province with no real city life.
How much should doctors be paid? Should they be paid at comparable wages to other provinces? Should they be paid comparable to the US, where they make much more?
The reason we can't come up with a number is that the market place for doctors has been prohibited in Canada. Prices, ie: doctor pay, requires an actual market place to come up with real numbers. As it stands, a doctor should be paid as much as the political might of opposing groups will allow.
There is a point to be made about brain drain that Canada suffered from greatly in the 90's. You can't shaft the talented and productive people. Not only was the governments (federal and provincial) mismanaging money, spending like no tomorrow and taxing anyone that had talent to make decent money - they caused an exit. The brightest and most productive people went south where they could earn more, pay less taxes and most importantly not treated as some sacrificial lamb to be looted at will. This is something that should be avoided at all costs.
We Need a Medical Marketplace
The grip of single payer healthcare needs to be broken. A private system needs to, at the very least, be allowed to exist in parallel with the public system. Doctors should be able to pursue market opportunities without the government dictating the terms. Instead of a union and government coming up with an equitable category based style of pay, a doctor can be rewarded for their talent and skill.
This is the only way to at least figure out what is proper for pay. This may result in doctors being paid more, or less, but at least we'll know what doctors should be paid instead of treating them as sacrificial lambs to just serve the public at whatever cost is deemed appropriate.