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The Doctor Is Out

The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a “likely” shortage of 160,000 doctors by 2025.

1:53 PM, Apr 12, 2010 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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The evidence is mounting that Americans are correct in their overwhelming appraisal that Obamacare, if not repealed, would not only raise health costs and deficits, and would not only involve far too much government control over our lives, but would also reduce the quality of health care.  It’s not often that you find something that costs over $2 trillion (from 2014 to 2023) that we’d be better off not having even if it were free.

The Doctor Is Out

Obamacare would lead to greater demand for doctors’ services (if it doesn’t, then it truly would be throwing more than $2 trillion down the drain), while at the same time making medicine a far less attractive profession to enter.  Today’s American Medical News quotes an estimate by the Association of American Medical Colleges’s Center for Workforce Studies of a “likely” shortage of 160,000 doctors by 2025, including shortages of 46,000 primary-care physicians and 41,000 general surgeons — even after accounting for the supply of international medical graduates

Anecdotally (in my capacity as the director of the Benjamin Rush Society), I hear from doctors that many students are seriously considering abandoning their plans to apply to medical school. Can you blame them? Who wouldn't think twice before entering a profession that’s almost entirely controlled by Washington, where you’d have to serve the government or insurers at the expense of your patients, and where you’d be swamped with federal red-tape and bureaucracy?  

American Medical News quotes Dr. Joseph W. Stubbs as saying, "Coverage is not equivalent to access.”  He adds, "The system — right now — does not have enough primary care physicians to handle that many new patients who are seeking a personal physician to coordinate and manage their care."  If the Massachusetts experiment in government-run health care is any indicator, the situation would soon get far worse.

In the Bay State, where something like Obamacare is already on the books, 40 percent of family physicians no longer accept new patients, up from 30 percent just two years earlier — according to a June 2009 study by the state medical society. American Medical News writes, “Nearly 60% of internists have stopped taking new patients, up from 49% in 2007.  The average wait for an appointment with a primary care doctor in the state is 44 days.”

Dr. Stubbs adds, “We've seen from the experience in Massachusetts that it is a framework in which you can get almost everyone insured….The big logjam, and the big critical feature, is that if there's a shortage of primary care physicians, costs will go up substantially, because more patients will have to resort to higher health care utilization due to avoidable usage of emergency rooms.”

Wasn’t Obamacare pitched (it wasn’t sold so much as pitched and imposed) on the basis that it would move people out of emergency rooms, onto insurance, and in to see primary-care doctors?  It seems that the central planners forgot that the availability of such doctors was a key piece in the puzzle.  Their plans would increase demand for such doctors while likely reducing their supply.  As everyone (except perhaps the planners) knows, that’s a fool-proof recipe for longer lines and higher costs.

Let’s not spend our more than $2,000,000,000,000.00 in a way that simultaneously reduces our liberty and our quality of health care, raises our health costs and deficits, and ruins the medical profession.  Let’s listen to the American people, repeal Obamacare, and replace it with real reform.

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