Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Coming Obamacare Nuclear Option That Will Destroy the Good Life for Doctors

Merrill Matthews writes:

Patient access to doctors is approaching a perfect storm of decreased physician supply, more demand for medical care—especially after Obamacare kicks in—and doctors increasingly refusing to see low-paying Medicare or Medicaid patients.  If the “promise” of Obamacare’s access to health care is to be kept, government will eventually have to force doctors to accept Obamacare-covered patients.  Because such a step would represent such a radical departure from physician autonomy, you might call it the “medical nuclear option.”

To begin with, the U.S. is already facing a doctor shortage.  The Association of American Medical Colleges warns that the nation will face a shortage of 91,500 physicians by 2020.   With respect to family physicians, a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine predicted a primary care physician shortage of 52,000 by 2025.

There are several reasons for the shortages.  An aging population needs more medical care.  Doctors are retiring in large numbers, fed up with the bureaucratic challenges and red tape imposed by government and health insurance.  Plus, federal funds for training doctors can lead to shortages in some areas of the country.

Second, the implementation of Obamacare will likely exacerbate the doctor shortage.  People who have been uninsured for a while who then get coverage tend to use significantly more health care for the first few years.  If Obamacare results in an extra 30 million-plus people getting coverage—though at this point it isn’t clear whether, given the cancelations, higher premiums and the young and healthy potentially not enrolling, more people will ultimately have coverage—the demand for doctors will grow significantly, even as the relative number of doctors declines.

Third, a growing number of doctors are refusing to take new Medicaid or Medicare patients, and there is every reason to think the same will happen under Obamacare.[...]

Invoking this medical nuclear option would surely exacerbate the doctor-shortage problem, as those unwilling to be shackled by the government retire or perhaps try to switch to a cash-only basis.  But HHS and the states are already gearing up to fill some of that gap with physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

Democrats at both the federal and state levels are trying and make one of the country’s biggest policy disasters work.  They have already committed trillions of taxpayer dollars to get their government-controlled health care system up and running (sort of); it is very unlikely that they will let doctors’ unwillingness to take Obamacare coverage stand in their way.

1 comment:

  1. In some states MD's are forced to accept Medicaid patients...I'm sure the Feds will do the same and force MDs to work essentially for free.