Monday, October 28, 2013

Allen Describes ObamaCare 2016

Dr. Bradley Allen, a pediatric heart surgeon, has an excellent OpEd in the Wall Street Journal on ObamaCare 2016 (from 10/22/2013).

He discusses the more fundamental structural problems with ObamaCare after the initial launch problems and how it will accelerate current ominous trends.  

The combination of the worsening doctor shortage, doctors opting out of Medicare, doctors opting out of Medicaid, and the migration of doctors out of private practice (due to regulatory overhead) will create tremendous problems for patients seeking medical care.

A few excerpts:
The loss of private practice is another big problem. Because of regulations and other government disincentives to self employment, doctors began working for hospitals in the early 2000s, leaving less than half in private practice by 2013. The ACA rapidly accelerated this trend, so that now very few private practices remain.

When doctors are employed like factory workers by hospitals, data from the Medical Group Management Association and others indicate, their productivity falls—sometimes by more than 25%. They see fewer patients and perform fewer timely procedures, exacerbating the troubles caused by physician shortages. Continuity of care also declines, since now a physician's responsibilities end when his shift is over.

Of those doctors still in private practice, many have taken refuge from the health-care law by going into concierge medicine, where the patient pays an annual fee (typically $500-$3,000 a year per individual) to a primary-care physician. This doctor provides enhanced care, grants quicker appointments and spends more time with each patient, working with a base of 300-600 patients instead of the 3,000-5,000 typical in the ACA era. Doctors and patients who can afford it love concierge medicine: It allows treatment to be administered as the doctor sees fit, instead of as if the patient is on an assembly line with care directed on orders from Washington.

Patients who can't afford concierge medicine but have seen their doctor take that route are out of luck: They have been added to the swelling rolls of patients taken care of by the shrinking pool of physicians. So even people with "private" insurance have found that the quality of their health care declined. Nowadays, many are forced instead to see a nurse or other health-care provider. The traditional doctor-patient relationship is now reserved primarily for those who can pay extra.
As a result, fewer bright young students will go into medicine:
With an average of $300,000 in student loans, eight years of college and medical school, and three to seven years as underpaid, overworked residents, a prospective physician in the ACA era would be starting a career at age 30 in a job that requires working 70-80 hours a week in an assembly-line fashion to earn perhaps $100,000 a year. No wonder so many qualified individuals these days are choosing careers on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley instead of medicine.
Dr. Allen paints a chilling scenario.  It's up to us to make sure this doesn't happen.

(Read the full text of "ObamaCare 2016: Happy Yet?")