In the public debate over the extension of collective bargaining rights to independent physicians, union proponents' primary argument has been that patients would benefit from allowing physicians to bargain collectively with health plans. This article examines the likely effects of physician unions on the U.S. health care system. Specifically considered are likely effects on economic efficiency, quality, access, and cost. Under none of these criteria are physician unions likely to improve health system performance, particularly when compared with available alternative strategies for dealing with problems identified by union proponents.

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