The Medicus Firm regularly takes the pulse, pardon the pun, of America's physicians. When the company recently asked 2,500 docs to grade ObamaCare, the results were unnerving. A mere 6.3% of physicians gave the law an "A," with most physicians saying it will not lower costs or improve the quality of care. But hold on. Weren't those the incessantly-repeated goals of the Affordable Care Act? At the other end of the scale, 30% of the doctors surveyed gave ObamaCare an "F" and 20% were more charitable, handing out a "D." Let's hope grade inflation is not in play here.
Other polls have consistently shown that many physicians are mulling over the possibility of abandoning the profession they once cherished. A broad Deloitte survey concluded that many doctors will retire earlier than they had planned, while others are cutting back their hours. Remarkably, 57% of America's doctors say the practice of medicine is in jeopardy. That is stunning!
So while ObamaCare may eventually lead to more people having insurance, the question is, who will treat them? The highly respected McKinsey consulting company says "narrow and ultra-narrow hospital networks are more prevalent." Translation: Fewer choices of doctors and hospitals for us.
CNN recently ran a story about an Oklahoma woman whose son has a serious heart condition. The piece began with this chilling paragraph: "Terri Durheim and her family now have health insurance, thanks to Obamacare. What they don't have are local doctors and hospitals who will take it." Even National Public Radio, hardly a right-wing outlet, reported on a pregnant Texas woman: "Rachel recalls two days in January when she sat down and called every doctor on the list of 28. According to her, most of the practices told her, in one way or another, that they didn't take the plan. Some would just come right out and say, 'We don't take Obamacare.'" Well, guess what? Rachel and her family simply stopped paying premiums and re-joined the ranks of the uninsured.
There are essentially two reasons that some doctors are feeling nauseous over ObamaCare. First, control. Medical people do not want federal pinheads telling them how to treat their patients. The profession attracts intelligent, assertive people who are motivated to help others. This is not a docile crowd.
Second, there is the issue of money. Many doctors are already seeing too many patients in order to pay their bills and provide a decent living for their families. ObamaCare does nothing to bring down the outrageous expense of medical malpractice insurance, and it is likely to cut some reimbursements. Even if they focused on chemistry and biology during their grueling years in med school, doctors can still do the math.
In Canada and Great Britain, where fully socialized medicine is practiced, it is difficult to actually see a doctor in some places. Instead, nurses, physician assistants, and other medical personnel fill the need. That is what could happen in the United States as the feds begin calling the shots.
Not since the Iraq war has America been so divided on an issue. Conservatives despise government intrusion in the marketplace, liberals love it, and polls have consistently shown that the majority sides with the GOP. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll shows 57% disapproving of President Obama's handling of health care, with just 37% approving. In the game of politics, a 20-point margin is a wipeout, a shellacking.
So here's a hypothetical question: What would Marcus Welby, Ben Casey, and Dr. Kildare say about ObamaCare? These guys usually had the answers back when wise doctors were heroes on TV and health care seemed to be a glamorous profession.
Would Drs. Welby, Casey, and Kildare support the law? Or would they be among the 50% of doctors who give it a "D" or "F?" The liberal sawbones in M*A*S*H might approve, particularly Dr. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce, but who knows?
What we surely do know is that this is not a TV drama, it's more of a horror movie. We also know that many Americans are really sick – sick to death of the entire health care debacle. And the best doctors in the world can't do much to make us feel any better about it.