Sorry, your doctor won't be in

This week’s new health reform provision about free preventive services for women got a lot of praise and a lot of coverage this week. It’s not surprising.

Who wouldn’t be excited about free checkups, free prescriptions and free screenings. (Of course free is a relative term, but that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.)

But there was another bit of health reform-related news this week, too—though the news flew under the radar comparatively.

A new, nationwide survey of US physicians shows that one in three doctors say they will quit practicing medicine in the next decade, blaming health care reform and economic woes.

And this isn't about retirement, either—most are 55 and under.

“That creates a real health care access problem," says Richard Jackson, chairman and CEO of Jackson Healthcare, which conducted the survey. "Many are demoralized and weighing their options.”

We all know there’s a problem. I had to make an appointment more than two months out with one of my doctors recently, the soonest—the receptionist assured me—my doctor was able to see me. And I thought we were close.

If we have that kind of problem now, think about all the new patients under health reform. Doctors have warned they simply can’t handle the influx. Now, let’s cut that already small number of doctors by another 34 percent, the number who say all the commotion is causing them to leave medicine.

Am I worried? Absolutely. Is anyone else? I’m not so sure.

We hear from politicians, from consumers, from insurers—but mostly from Washington—about health reform. But doctors—arguably those who know the industry best—have largely been left out of the national conversation.

Silently, they’ve made their arguments.

“What PPACA does is increase patients’ access to a piece of paper—that says they are ‘covered’ by insurance or ‘enrolled’ in Medicaid or Medicare,” says Kathryn Serkes, chair of the Doctor Patient Medical Association.“But paper promises don’t translate to actual medical care when doctors can’t afford to see patients at the lowball payments, and patients have to jump through bureaucratic hoops set up by the government.”

So, sure, as a woman I’ll take advantage of a free checkup, thanks to health reform. I’m just worried about who will be there to give me one.

About the Author
Kathryn Mayer

Kathryn Mayer

Kathryn Mayer is Managing Editor for Benefits Selling magazine. She can be reached at kmayer@sbmedia.com

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