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Monday, December 26, 2011

Doctors Say Obamacare Is No Remedy for U.S. Health Woes

From Forbes Online, 12/26/11

America’s doctors have conducted a full examination of the president’s health reform law — and their diagnosis of its effects on our healthcare system isn’t good.
Nearly two-thirds of doctors expect the quality of care in this country to decline, according to a new survey from consulting giant Deloitte. Just 27 percent think that the law will lower costs. And nearly seven of every 10 doctors believe that medicine is no longer attractive to America’s “best and brightest.”

Few people know more about our healthcare system than doctors working on the frontlines. Policymakers should pay heed to their indictment of Obamacare and revisit the disastrous law.

President Obama promised that his reform package would begin to stymie the out-of-control growth in the cost of American health care. He pledged $2,500 in health insurance savings for the typical American family.

But doctors don’t buy it. Only one quarter feel that Obamacare will reduce health insurance costs for consumers. Nine out of ten posit that insurers will raise premiums for employers and individuals.

They have good reason to doubt Obamacare’s cost-cutting potential. Healthcare spending is expected to reach $2.7 trillion this year — or about $1 of every $6 spent in our economy. By 2020, health spending will account for a full fifth of America’s GDP.

That increase is in large part thanks to Obamacare. Instead of relieving high insurance premiums, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that American families in the non-group market will see their premiums rise $2,100.
They’re already trending higher. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, average family premiums in 2011 topped $15,000 — a 9 percent increase from 2010. Prior to Obamacare’s passage — from 2009 to 2010 — premiums went up just 3 percent.
In April 2010, Richard Foster, the Chief Actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), concluded that American spending on health care through 2019 would be $311 billion higher than if the law had never passed.

Even with all that additional money flowing through the system, doctors don’t think that the quality of care will improve. Half of all doctors believe that access to care will diminish because of hospital closures prompted by health reform.
Further, nearly 70 percent of doctors believe that long wait times will plague emergency rooms. A full 83 percent of physicians foresee increased wait times for primary care appointments.

That’s in large part because Obamacare is expected to extend government-subsidized insurance coverage to many folks — even as the supply of providers remains relatively constant.

The United States already faces a shortage of primary-care doctors. Medical schools today produce one such physician for every two our country needs. By 2019, the American Academy of Family Physicians warns that the United States will be short 40,000 doctors.

Expanding insurance coverage to millions more Americans won’t do much good if they can’t get doctor’s appointments. Physicians believe that their ability to provide quality care will be further strained by the law’s attempt to change the way they’re paid — from a fee-for-service basis to a vaguely defined system of paying doctors based on patient health and outcomes.

Nine out of ten physicians fear they will receive inadequate payments and endure higher administrative costs. Fewer than a quarter of doctors expect their paperwork requirements to ease up. Time spent wading though paperwork is also time no longer available for actually practicing medicine.

American doctors’ negative view of Obamacare is telling. Proponents of the law may claim that their griping is misplaced, but as Paul Keckley, Ph.D., the lead author of the report explains, “Understanding the view of the physician is fundamental to any attempt to change the health care model.”

In other words, if physicians aren’t on board with Obamacare, it won’t work. A law that hinders the practice of medicine, obstructs access to care, and costs Americans more is clearly not the right remedy for what ails us.

Sally C. Pipes is President, CEO, and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute. Her next book — The Pipes Plan: The Top Ten Ways to Dismantle and Replace Obamacare (Regnery) — will be released in January 2012.


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