Health Reform's Doctor Depression

November 13, 2012

The aftershock since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has given many doctors the blues, prompting them to cut hours or leave the profession, says Sally C. Pipes, president, CEO and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute.

The Physicians Foundation recently asked more than 13,000 doctors about their views on the Affordable Care Act. The responses were grim.

  • Six in 10 doctors are not optimistic about the future of health care.
  • Almost two-thirds hold a negative outlook on their jobs -- this is twice as many as before the health reform bill passed in 2010.
  • More than three-fifths of the doctors say they would retire today if it was a viable option.
  • Eighty-four percent say the medical industry is in decline.

This translates to a supply-shortage of medical services.

  • Many doctors are cutting back on their workload or closing their practice.
  • Physicians report working 6 percent fewer hours than four years ago.
  • The 6 percent decrease in productivity amounts to two and a half hours less per week per doctor.
  • Sum up all the hours and it equates to losing more than 44,000 full-time physicians.
  • According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the ACA will push the doctor shortage up to 63,000 by 2015 -- and more than 91,000 by 2020.

Pipes says the ACA's $716 billion cut to Medicare is to blame.

  • The law creates an Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) charged with restraining the growth of Medicare spending.
  • IPAB functions by cutting reimbursement rates for health care providers who treat Medicare patients, thus discourage doctors from seeing seniors.
  • And so, more than half of physicians currently limit the number of Medicare patients they will accept.

Source: Sally C. Pipes, "ObamaCare's Doctor Depression," Orange County Register, November 8, 2012.

 

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