Doctors Will Quit if Obama-Care Becomes Law

March 17th, 2010 by Lee Eldridge

46.3% of primary care physicians (family medicine and internal medicine) feel that the passing of health reform will either force them out of medicine or make them want to leave medicine.NOTE: I’ve left my original post intact below, but the New England Journal of Medicine is now distancing themselves from this survey and content. As of this morning they had posted two detailed articles about the results of a survey conducted by The Medicus Firm. They have now removed the two articles and instead are linking to The Medicus Firms’ website for information about the survey. The NEJM now says: “The opinions expressed in the article linked to above represent those of The Medicus Firm only. That article does not represent the opinions of the New England Journal of Medicine or the Massachusetts Medical Society.”

I still find the survey interesting, but now it’s harder to know how closely this survey mirrors the opinions of doctors across the country. Maybe Rasmussen will pick up these same questions and do a new survey for us.

Lee

*****

Let me start with a personal story. I good friend of mine was seeing a doctor in Kansas City this last summer. The doctor is a specialist and widely considered among the best in his field in the country. The doctor told my friend that he was working on his MBA, and would be leaving medicine if Obama-Care passed.

One of the complaints among opponents about this massive healthcare reform bill is that it will drive doctors away from medicine. And even though I knew of a personal story about a doctor who was already planning to leave medicine, it’s been difficult for me to tell how much of this was rhetoric, and how much of it was legitimate. Until now.

In a new article from the New England Journal of Medicine, they report that a recent survey shows that “46.3% of primary care physicians (family medicine and internal medicine) feel that the passing of health reform will either force them out of medicine or make them want to leave medicine.”

See the full story here in the NEJM. And here is a quick overview of the key findings. (NOTE: These links used to take you to the two articles on NEMJ’s website, but now take you to information where they explain that it wasn’t their survey.)

Here are a few of the comments that stuck out to me:

Physicians agree that healthcare reform is needed. Only 3.6% of physicians prefer the “status quo” and feel that the U.S. health care system is best “as is”.

Only 28.7% of physicians are in favor of a public option.

62.7% of physicians feel that health reform is needed but should be implemented in a more targeted, gradual way, as opposed to the sweeping overhaul that is in legislation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics “predicts a more than a 22 percent increase in physician jobs during the ten-year period ending in 2018. This places physician careers in the top 20 fastest-growing occupations from 2008 to 2018. Meanwhile, nearly one-third of physicians responding to the survey indicated that they will want to leave medical practice after health reform is implemented.”

“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,” said Steve Marsh, managing partner at The Medicus Firm in Dallas. “The reality is that there may not be enough doctors to provide quality medical care to the millions of newly insured patients.”

Let me put it this way — doctors understand that we need healthcare reform. But they already know what it’s like for the federal government to get their hooks into health care. And they don’t want any more of it. They deal with Medicare every day. And they watch as Canadians come to the U.S. because they’re unable to receive high-quality of care in a reasonable amount of time in Canada.

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15 Responses to “Doctors Will Quit if Obama-Care Becomes Law”

  1. Bobby Says:

    Wow. I had heard that as well but hadn’t seen the study. That’s frightening.

  2. elaine Says:

    Personally I think those who feel they will quit should stage a walk-out either today or tommorrow. Certainly not in any manner that would put lives in jeopardy, but I think the result would be astounding and perhaps be a game changer for OPR Care. (ObamaPelosiReid doesn’t sound as good)

  3. DanCP Says:

    It’s also false:

    http://www.nejmjobs.org/rpt/health-reform-may-reduce-physician-workforce.aspx

    http://mediamatters.org/blog/201003170036

  4. Lee Eldridge Says:

    Hey Dan. Thanks for the link.

    Did you read the information on NEJM site before it was pulled? When a source like the NEJM adds this content to their site, it certainly appears that they felt like the information was accurate and relevant. Their certainly was no reason to believe differently. And for that matter, it doesn’t mean that the survey itself isn’t still valid. But it certainly carries less weight in my mind when NEJM is now distancing themselves from this survey.

    I will update my blog entry.

  5. Just Plano Bob Says:

    docs4patientcare.org

  6. Lee Eldridge Says:

    You know it would be interesting to know why the NEJM pulled the content from their site. I would guess that it kicked up more of a firestorm than they expected, and it was easier to pull the two articles and say “hey, it wasn’t us”. That certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t agree or accept the findings as accurate. I can’t imagine why they would have put the info up in the first place if they thought the info was bad.

  7. Julie A Says:

    There will be plenty of doctors. Just not good ones. The exodus of doctors and health care providers happened in the UK. They filled the vacuum by importing foreign doctors and granting them and their families citizenship. So, no problem, we’ll import doctors from Pakistan and Mexico to work for $50K a year.

    This is what price controls do. They don’t control the price; they just shift the cost from monetary to non-monetary.

  8. Bobby Says:

    To DanCP, I’m wondering how you determined it was false? Just because Fox misidentified the source on air a couple times? Or does it just not fit into your own perceptions so it can’t be true?

    And mediamatters? Not that’s an unbiased source of information.

  9. ralphie Says:

    So let me see if i understand what you are saying, Doctors are saying they will quit because there is too much demand for their services? Sounds to me like too much business means business will be good! Ive never heard of someone that wanted to leave their profession because there was business lined up around the block. I also have to say that the argument that ‘obama care’ would open up the floodgates for your fellow americans (unworthy peasants) and that ‘lets ease them in gradually’ is a classically transparent republican statement which i find to be morally wrong. And finally, by reading your post it sounds to me like this country is about to be a hot bed of demand for new workers in the medical profession. Last time i checked new jobs are needed in this country, ASAP, esp higher wage jobs. Since youre a republican Lee, ive been wondering when is that R’s do have a thought about someone other than themselves? When are they the party of yes to fixing something that doesnt benfit them?

  10. Lee Eldridge Says:

    Hello Ralphie. Thanks for jumping in. Let’s see if I can tackle a few points, because I don’t think you’re understanding what I’m saying at all.

    1 – I’m not a republican. I’ve been a registered independent for about 20 years. In presidential elections I’ve voted republican, democrat and reform party. I’m fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and have no love for any political party. There is not a political party that represent my core beliefs.

    2 – Doctors will not quit because of demands for service. They’ll consider quitting if they don’t like their new work environment that will be imposed by the federal government.

    You are assuming that doctors would base their work decision off of numbers of potential customers. I think that’s a silly assumption. Doctors are bright and dedicated professionals. They are very capable of working in any number of different fields. And if they decide that the frustrations they face as a doctor outweigh the benefits, then they’ll move on to a different career. I think that’s one of the most important things to take from the survey — doctors are willing to consider doing something else if they decide they don’t like their work environment. And they anticipate NOT liking their work environment if this legislation becomes law.

    3 – I’ve been a proponent of healthcare reform for 20 years. Lots of things are broken in our current system and need to be addressed. But this is a bad and over-reaching bill that in my opinion will do more harm than good.

  11. Lula Says:

    Yahoo has an article about the doctors leaving… It’s so inciting because it’s total B.S., a very limited study of what? 50 doctors who took a survey because they disagree to begin with?
    Anyone ever take a Statistics class? This qualifies as “Damn Lies”
    Dumb people eat it right up though.
    Besides, if doctors want to leave, they’re not very dedicated to helping people. The best and brightest people aren’t the ones who are only interested in profit anyway, they practice medicine because they’re satisfaction in using their minds and doing something good… they’ll still be getting paid. Most that will walk are probably the ones that should go anyway, and good riddance.

  12. ralphie Says:

    I cant imagine that the government will jack doctors harder than insurance companies are doing. Insurance companies make money by denying coverage. The government wont have a profit incentive. Being that doctors still make a great living, with the hassles, i imagine the ones that want to do because they care about helping people, will still do it. If doctors leave the profession, then the ‘market economy’ will surely fill those jobs wont it? I think so. Do you think every aspect of this bill is bad? Or just some parts?

  13. Lee Eldridge Says:

    Hey Ralphie. I’m sure there are a number of good things in the bill. And there are some good things that have been left out of the bill. (Which always worries me, but that’s a different subject.)

    I think one of the primary issues that has doctors worried is that they see the plan for Medicare, and assume the government will move in the same direction for putting limits on health care in general.

    One way that this bill is supposed to be paid for is by cutting $500 billion from Medicare. Now I’ve read reports for years about the amount of waste that goes on in Medicare. And it might even be possible to fix and cut the waste without a reduction in service. We need to fix Medicare. But I have little faith that government can actually come up with $500 billion in savings without reducing (rationing) services. They already plan to lower payments to doctors and hospitals. (They already pay the doctors less than the insurance companies pay them.) Which means they have now reduced doctors income even further.

    So either one of two things will happen (in my opinion):

    1 – The government will cut $500 billion, but can only do so by rationing care AND reducing payments to hospitals and doctors. Some doctors are already opting out and not accepting Medicare patients. If you continue to lower payments, more and more doctors will opt out of accepting Medicare. Now you’ve created a situation where there’s a smaller pool of doctors likely providing a lower quality of care. The better doctors with the thriving practices are the ones who are more likely to opt out.

    or 2 – We never come close to cutting $500 billion. Congress doesn’t have the stomach to fix Medicare and ration service. So we end up with a much smaller savings than projected, making this health care package MORE expensive than predicted.

    You even mention that “government wont have a profit incentive”. I couldn’t agree with you more. And that’s one of the inherent problems with government run health care.

    Why does the post office lose so much money? Because the government doesn’t want to charge for mail an amount that would allow them to break even financially. So “we” fund the post office for the greater good.

    The exact same thing will happen with health care. It’s going to cost way more than we’ve been told. They will not make the cuts that they’ve promised. And “we” will be stuck paying off the debt that has occurred.

    One more thing and I’ll shut up for now :) We desperately need health care reform. Insurance premiums are increasing out an outrageous pace. And too many people cannot afford insurance.

  14. Julie A. Says:

    Obama has explained to us that even though they will lose money per patient due to paltry reimbursement and skyrocketing malpractice insurance rates, they can make it up on volume.

    So it’s all good..LoL. Would YOU stay in that situation, just out of the goodness of your heart?

    A developing trend is US doctors opening clinics in Monterrey Mexico, large clinics designed to lure Americans that have cash and want top medical care.

    Why? Because many Dr’s have seen the future, a future where the government designates compensation. Why would a person spend 12 years in training (AND incur huge debt) to be paid the same as a postal worker?

    This is all common sense,… you don’t even need a “study” to figure this out,.. its basic economics.

  15. Bobby Says:

    Julie, I think you make some great points.

    Doctors don’t like this legislation because

    1. it doesn’t include tort reform
    2. it lowers how much they will be paid by medicare
    3. it’s likely to create an influx of new patients into the system without increasing the ability to serve them
    4. it raises taxes on many types of medical supplies
    5. comes with more government regulations

    Let’s see, why would doctors like this legislation?