Obamacare changes the health care system in several ways that harm physicians. It also fails to address the pivotal issues facing physicians today—for example, low government reimbursement rates that fail to cover the cost of care, or the need for state-by-state medical malpractice reform.
It should have come as a surprise, then, that during the health care reform debate, the American Medical Association (AMA) emerged as one of the new law’s supporters. But rather than symbolizing physicians’ support for the left’s health care overhaul, the AMA’s stance on Obamacare just proves how detached the organization has become from physicians’ best interests. A recent phone survey of physicians conducted by Jackson and Coker, a division of Jackson Healthcare, affirms the growing gap between the AMA and the physicians it is intended to represent. The survey showed:
- Only 11 percent of the physicians surveyed agreed that “the AMA’s stance and actions represent my views.” Of those who are members of the AMA, only 40 percent agreed.
- 13 percent of all physicians, and just 35 percent of AMA members, agreed with the AMA’s position on health reform; 70 percent disagreed.
- Of those who had dropped their AMA membership, 47 percent said it was because of the AMA’s support for Obamacare, and 43 percent who said AMA’s ideology was too far to the left.
- Only 15 percent of physicians considered the AMA a successful advocate of physicians’ issues. 75 percent of physicians surveyed said that “the AMA no long represents physicians; physicians need a more representative voice.”
Physicians are clearly concerned about the future of the medical profession and the health care system as a whole. In a paper describing Obamacare’s impact on doctors, Heritage expert Robert Moffit writes, “Based on earlier polling and surveys of physician sentiment, none of this should be surprising. The new law does not address physicians’ most pressing concerns, such as tort reform, and it worsens the already painful problems with third-party payment and government red tape.”
Obamacare ignores what is best for physicians and their patients. The new law does nothing to address the flawed sustainable growth rate formula, which requires a reduction in Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors. Congress delays the formula’s effects every year because of the impact it would have on seniors’ access to care. If Congress fails to pass a “doc fix” this year, payment rates will fall by 29.4 percent, making it more difficult for physicians to continue seeing Medicare patients. The AMA has long called for a permanent solution, but supported Obamacare even though it did not include one.
At the same time, Obamacare also expanded Medicaid coverage to include as many as 25 million additional Americans. This will crowd out existing private coverage and require physicians to treat more patients at the reimbursement rates offered by Medicaid, which in many cases do not even cover the cost of providing services. Finally, the new law expands the Medicare bureaucracy, increasing the rules, regulations, and guidelines that physicians must follow.
Physicians’ lack of support for the new law confirms that to achieve the kind of reform that will most benefit doctors and their patients, Congress will have to scrap Obamacare and start over.