ObamaCare Would Drive Doctors Out of Business
by Matt Patterson
If ObamaCare passes, you may lose your family doctor. Oh, and good luck finding a new one.
That's the stunning conclusion of a new study by the Medicus Firm, as reported by Recruiting Physicians Today, a newletter published by the publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine. Medicus, a national physician search firm, surveyed 1,195 practicing physicians about the health reform plans pending in Congress. The doctors, representing a wide range of specialties and career levels, were asked to assess the possible impact of ObamaCare on their careers, including "income, job satisfaction, and future career plans."1
The bottom line of that investigation, titled Physician Survey: Health Reform's Impact on Physician Supply and Quality of Medical Care, is summed up by Medicus managing partner Steve Marsh: "What many people may not realize is that health reform could impact physician supply in such a way that the quality of health care could suffer. The reality is that there may not be enough doctors to provide quality medical care to the millions of newly insured patients."2
Why? Put simply, doctors fear that ObamaCare would make the business and practice of medicine more trouble than it's worth. The surveyed physicians foresee in their future under ObamaCare a decrease in income coupled with an increased work load, a toxic combination of new regulations and taxes plus millions of newly insured individuals swelling their patient rosters.
The doctors assessed the possible impact of several iterations of ObamaCare. For example, 72 percent felt their income would decrease under a health reform bill that included a public option, while 50 percent predicted a decrease in income under a health reform regime without a public option.
Not surprisingly, "an overwhelming 63 percent of physicians prefer a more gradual, targeted approach to health reform" as opposed to the massive, one-size fits all plans favored by the President and Congressional leaders.3 An astonishing 46 percent of responding primary care physicians claim they would leave or try to leave medicine as a result of ObamaCare, gravely exacerbating the existing shortage of primary care doctors (according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the number of U.S. medical school students choosing primary care has already dropped 52 percent since 1997).4
The Medicus results echo a similar Investors Business Daily poll of over 1,000 practicing physicians, 65 percent of whom expressed opposition to the President's health reform plan, and 72 percent of whom doubted the administration's claim that the government could significantly expand coverage and provide better care at lower cost. The IBD poll, conducted in September of 2009, also found a startling number of physicians, 45 percent, who would consider quitting if ObamaCare becomes law. The grim conclusion of the IBD survey: "Two of every three practicing physicians oppose the medical overhaul plan under consideration in Washington, and hundreds of thousands would think about shutting down their practices or retiring early if it were adopted."5
If ObamaCare would drive practicing doctors out of work, it would also devastate efforts to recruit new physicians. After all, how do you persuade talented young people to enter a business that promises high taxes, regulation, risk and stress - without commensurate compensation? For the average health care consumer, the result of this shrinking pool of physicians would be long waits and rationed care, to say nothing of overworked, unhappy doctors.
(And let's not forget the 78 million Baby Boomers, many of whom are already beginning to retire and will need increased medical attention in the coming decades, putting massive additional demands on our already overburdened system.6)
It is true that the American Medical Association (AMA) last year threw its support behind Obama's plan.7 But the AMA's support was bought and paid for: As the L.A. Times put it, "Of all the interest groups that have won favorable terms in closed-door negotiations this year, [the AMA] may have taken home the biggest prizes, including an agreement to stop planned cuts in Medicare payments that are worth $228 billion to doctors over 10 years."8 Even so, the sweeteners used to lure the AMA failed to tempt other prestigious medical organizations, including the American College of Surgeons and 18 other specialty groups who continue to oppose the President's health care overhaul.9
Our nation's physicians are loud and clear: ObamaCare could "result in a significant decline in the overall quality of medical care nationwide."10 Obama and his allies have refused to listen to the American people, who by wide margins continue to oppose their health reform plans. Will they also ignore our family doctors, almost half of whom warn that they would quit if forced to labor under the burdens of state-managed care?
Sadly, the answer is: Probably.
Matt Patterson is a policy analyst for the National Center for Public Policy Research and a National Review Institute Washington fellow. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This paper was corrected on March 18, 2010 to reflect the fact that the Medicus study was published by Recruiting Physicians Today, a newsletter published by the publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine, not in the New England Journal of Medicine.