Obamacare’s ambitions to control the entire health care system through a medical mega-bureaucracy endangers the health care system.  In addition to the toxic potential for rationing, the attempt to undermine private insurance—both for profit and not for profit—by preventing underwriting and forcing companies to take all comers (toward forcing a single payer system, in my opinion), the financially devastating unfunded Medicaid mandates to the states, the cutting of Medicare, etc., etc., there is more to worry about; the potential that doctors will just throw up their hands and take a hike rather than surrender their professionalism to bureaucrats.

We saw an earlier study indicating that may just happen, which I reported here.  And now a survey of 2400 doctors for the Physician’s Foundation, reaches a similar chilling conclusion.  From the report:

The research, conducted by Merritt Hawkins, a national physician search and consulting firm, on behalf of the Foundation, comes on the two-year anniversary of the Foundation’s first national physician survey that found growing dissatisfaction among doctors as they struggle with less time for patient care and increased time dealing with non-clinical paperwork, difficulty receiving reimbursement and burdensome government regulations. The new research reinforces those findings and shows that the new health care reform could intensify existing problems for doctors and worsen the shortage of primary care doctors, making it more difficult for patients to access quality care.

Here are some specifics:
• The majority of physicians (60%) said health reform will compel them to close or significantly restrict their practices to certain categories of patients. Of these, 93% said they will be forced to close or significantly restrict their practices to Medicaid patients, while 87% said they would be forced to close or significantly restrict their practices to Medicare patients.

• 40% of physicians said they would drop out of patient care in the next one to three years, either by retiring, seeking a non-clinical job within healthcare, or by seeking a non-healthcare related job.

• The majority of physicians (59%) said health reform will cause them to spend less time with patients.

• While over half of physicians said health reform will cause patient volumes in their practices to increase, 69% said they no longer have the time or resources to see additional patients in their practices while still maintaining quality of care.

• 67% of physicians said their initial reaction to passage of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was either “somewhat negative” or “very negative” and a great majority (86%) believes the viewpoint of physicians was not adequately represented to policy makers during the run-up to passage of the law.

This is daunting and needs to be looked at very carefully in the new Congress.

Some may argue that it won’t really happen, that it is all bluff and bluster.  I don’t think we should be so sanguine.  We are already seeing stories of doctors not taking Medicaid and Medicare because of delayed payments, of physicians overworked and underpaid in HMOs, etc.  It strikes me that the bigger the government’s thumb on the health care system, the more doctors—particularly those nearing the end of their careers—will say, “It’s just not worth it.”

Here’s a link to the actual report.

Articles by Wesley J. Smith

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