Side Effects: Get Ready to Wait for Your Health Care
Richard Sherwood /
Patience will be more than a virtue, under Obamacare. It’ll be a necessity. A recent article from ABC News outlines why Americans can expect longer and longer waits before they see a doctor.
One reason is that there just won’t be enough doctors to get the job done. ABC reports that 10 years from now, the United States will short 85,000 primary care and high-demand specialty physicians. Says Dr. Kevin Pho, an internal medicine physician in New Hampshire, “I don’t think we have the primary care capacity to meet the influx of 35 million newly insured.”
Expansion of health insurance coverage does not automatically translate into immediate access to care. When Massachusetts enacted its comprehensive statewide health reform in 2006, it dramatically reduced the number of uninsured and uncompensated care in Massachusetts hospitals, but the state was not ready to absorb the pent-up demand for primary care physicians. The result: Since 2006, wait times have increased greatly.
ABC reports that patients wait, on average, 50 days to see a doctor in Boston. That’s nearly double the next-longest wait time registered by a major American city—27 days in Philadelphia.
Dr. Pho notes that some of his patients make the trek from Massachusetts to his New Hampshire office just to avoid the long waits in their home state.
But Obamacare will make these problems worse. Why? Because the new law will add another federal layer of bureaucracy and its mind numbing rules and regulations to medical practice while reducing physician income. Not surprisingly, many physicians say they will voluntarily leave the profession. The biggest change is the massive expansion of Medicaid. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that roughly half of the newly insured under Obamacare will be covered by Medicaid, a poorly performing welfare program. Medicaid pays physicians on average 56 percent of the payment they obtain under private insurance. Doctors anticipate more and more patients to be shifted onto Medicaid, even as physician reimbursements are lowered. Some also fear Obamacare’s use of “comparative effectiveness research” will stifle medical innovation at the clinical level and pressure them to standardize medical treatments, rather than tailor them to the particular needs of each patient.
Rather than rely on abysmal health care programs like Medicaid to expand health coverage, Congress could have relied on market-based approaches that let patients control their health spending and utilization, while forcing providers and plans to compete for their dollars. To learn more about this consumer-centered approach, click here.