Doctors Fear for Medicine’s Future

Physicians in national survey say they face momentous choices.

In a new national poll, doctors say they must now decide if they can continue practicing medicine in their patients’ best interest or bow to bureaucratically-set restrictions that take precedence over patient necessities. Another stark choice some doctors ponder is: Can I afford to quit medicine altogether? The language of respondents is stark and often angry.

The survey of 36,000 physicians by the Doctor Patient Medical Association Foundation (DPMAF), with a better than average return, revealed a most disturbing future for the health care of all Americans.

Doctors responded from 45 states. (130 didn’t identify their specific geographical location). Most (81 percent) were in small group practice. Most have been in practice for from 11 to 30 years. The survey, conducted by fax and online, was completed in June. Of those responding:

  • 90 percent say the medical system is “on the wrong track.”
  • 83 percent say they are “thinking about quitting.”
  • 61 percent said the system “challenges their ethics.”
  • 70 percent say “reducing government would be the single best fix.”

A Texas Orthopedist wrote, “I have been in practice 28 years and medicine is now the worst for doctors it has ever been.”  A Wisconsin anesthesiologist wrote, “I would not consider letting my teenagers become physicians.” A Kansas sports medicine doctor wrote: “Medicine is circling the drain. Heaven help us as we age.”

“I did not go to school for 25-plus years to be a computer programmer for the federal government,” testily responded a Florida ophthalmologist.

A Missouri physician concluded, “Medicine is no longer about treating and taking care of patients. I spend more time telling patients about additional paperwork they need to fill in.”

Two out of three surveyed answered that electronic medical records (EMR) [required by ObamaCare] compromise medical privacy and confidentiality. A neurologist from Missouri writes, “Electronic medical records...should not be connected to the outside world to avoid confidentiality abuse.” A Massachusetts psychiatrist added: “EMR has no place in psychiatric practice.”

A Florida endocrinologist branded ObamaCare as “a monstrous bill designed to give government COMPLETE control over our lives.” A New Hampshire doctor practicing internal medicine wrote: “Government gets away with rationing by making doctors the scapegoats that an ACO made a profit by skimping on care.” He referred to the Accountable Care Organizations (ACO). They take up only seven pages of the massive Affordable Care Act. Yet they have become one of the most confusing provisions. This latest model for delivering services offers primary-care doctors and hospitals financial incentives to provide “quality” care (as defined by bureaucrats) to Medicare beneficiaries while clamping down on costs. It is one of the more controversial provisions of ObamaCare, among the 150 programs, agencies, and boards in the law.

One physician who separated himself as much as possible from government intrusion wrote happily: “I opted out of Medicare and Medicaid for 12 years now as an internal medicine practitioner. I have never been busier, deliver a high quality service, am financially secure, and cannot wait to go to work every day,” according to that Minnesota internist.

Doctors also scoff at declared cost-cutting tactics falsely promised by the Obama Administration. They are quite “unlikely to do so,” many said. “Only the free market will fix this mess,” wrote a Texas OB-GYN.

Two out of three physicians answering the survey say they are “just squeaking by or are losing money, and half expect that financial situation to worsen in the next five years. A Pennsylvania ophthalmologist wrote, “As a solo doc, I am being forced out of my practice by the bureaucracy...Those that suffer will be the patients.”

A Washington State family practitioner said: “I would be willing to do charity care weekly for the poor and uninsured if there was tort reform.”

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, 40 percent of medical malpractice suits filed are “without merit.” Yet despite the frivolous nature of many suits, juries often award millions to plaintiffs — and their trial lawyers. These predatory suits amount to legalized extortion and require doctors to carry malpractice insurance at great expense. A Department of Health and Human Services study found that unlimited excessive damages add between $70 billion and $126 billion annually to health-care costs. Trial lawyers are staunch Democrat supporters.

Many of the physicians point out that the huge expansion of Medicaid enrollees (estimated at 30 million) called for under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “is likely to backfire.” Almost half of the doctors (49 percent) said they will stop accepting Medicaid payments.

“More patient involvement” was ranked as a “most important” factor by 68 percent of the docs—just behind reducing government regulations and mandates.

Having health insurance--as required under the Affordable Care Act (upheld by the Supreme Court) means nothing if there aren’t doctors to care for us. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates a shortage of 63,000 doctors by 2015 and 91,500 by 2020 and 130,600 by 2025. The new survey indicates such estimates may well minimize an ominous future shortage.

“Hands down,” the medical Foundation said in its report, “doctors blame government involvement in medicine for the current problems in medicine, and they are not shy to say they want it out. Two out of three doctors ranks government as the top reason.”

A Kentucky anesthesiologist complains “As regulations have increased there has been a direct impact on the cost of care increasing.” But as a family practitioner in Washington State wrote: “I want to focus on what is best for my patients, not what a government official deems cost effective." Another Washington State physician, in an explosive response said, “The federal government needs to get the HELL out of the practice of medicine.”

Enormous cost of “setting up the infrastructure, complexity of payment, unclear regulations, delayed payments, extreme government involvement, need to hire specialists in Information Technology (IT), and database management, quality control, customer service, compliance, finance administration, and physician networking and following rules often set by non-medical personnel” face the nation’s medical system, the Foundation concluded.

In the desperate words of a Florida neurologist: “American healthcare is finished.”

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