A comprehensive survey of the nation’s physicians by a respected nonpartisan group has found broad-based pessimism about the future of medicine, President Obama’s health care law, and government-funded health care in general.
The biennial survey of 13,575 doctors across the country by the Physicians Foundation found more than half of them limiting the number of Medicare patients they see, and one out of four physicians have already closed their practices to Medicaid patients. Within the next four years, more than 50 percent of physicians surveyed intend to cut back on their hours, shift to concierge medicine, or retire.
Over three quarters of the physicians surveyed said they are somewhat pessimistic or very pessimistic about the future of medicine in the United States, with 84 percent saying the profession is in decline and 57.9 percent saying they would not recommend medicine as a career. More than one out of three physicians said they would not choose medicine if they had their careers to do over again.
Frustrated with Regulation, Cuts
Physicians were invited to share comments on the state of medicine as part of the survey, and many identified the shortage of primary care physicians as a significant problem.
“This [shortage] will be even more acutely felt if too much is asked for them to do as far as regulation is concerned. A majority of them are close to retirement and will just leave if more is expected of them that has little to do with actual patient care,” one physician warned. “The current trend to increase the regulations will push more of them into retirement.”
Six out of ten physicians said Obama’s health care law has made them less positive about the future of medicine. They expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the law’s reforms, particularly of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which 62 percent of physicians said were unlikely to increase healthcare quality or decrease costs.
“As government gets more involved in medicine and threatens cuts, especially Medicare, more and more physicians are saying goodbye to medicine,” said one physician. “The result will be poorer healthcare, by far, a few years from now. Thankfully, I will be out of it, but I will have to suffer as a consumer with the consequences of this shortsighted reaction.”
Some physicians, roughly 7 percent, said they plan to switch to practices in which patients pay an annual fee or a retainer for their services as opposed to working with the government or insurers for reimbursement.
“Although I am fortunate enough to have the best possible profession, I would not recommend going into medicine to become a physician to anyone considering it,” one physician said. “Why should we continue to place ourselves in great financial and personal risk in the absence of any foreseeable tort reform, the prospect of working more hours for less reward, and giving up our personal lives as well?”
Physicians Foundation: 2012 Biennial Survey: http://www.physiciansfoundation.org/uploads/default/Physicians_Foundation_2012_Biennial_Survey.pdf