Hospitals

Younger physicians dislike Obamacare, pessimistic on future of U.S. healthcare

Younger physicians take after their older counterparts in at least two ways: They dislike federal health reform and they’re pessimistic about the future of U.S. healthcare, according to a new survey.

A national survey of 500 physicians 40 years of age and younger showed that 49 percent believe federal health reform will have a negative impact on their medical practices, while just 23 percent believe Obamacare will be a net positive, according to a survey from The Physicians Foundation, an advocacy group.

On a similar note, 57 percent of young physicians said they’re pessimistic about the future of the U.S. healthcare system, while 22 percent consider themselves optimistic.

“The level of pessimism among young doctors today is troubling and reinforces the notion that physicians need to be key participants in health policy discussions,” said Lou Goodman, president of the Physicians Foundation and CEO of the Texas Medical Association.

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The results of the new survey serve as somewhat of a complement to a 5,000-physician survey from The Doctors Company earlier this year, in which nearly half the respondents were 61 or older. That survey found that about 90 percent of doctors wouldn’t recommend a career in healthcare, and about 60 percent said health reform would have a negative impact on patient care.

So why are doctors so pessimistic about the future of healthcare in the U.S.? It’s the damn government! (That’s only a slight exaggeration.)

The Physicians Foundation survey posed that open-ended question to physicians, and the survey includes some of those responses, many of which would make any Tea Party member proud.

Responses range from “I think the government is destroying healthcare” to “The current administration is only concerned with money and maintaining their power and socialism,” with plenty of other similar highlights in between.

Looking for a somewhat more reality-based and less-histrionic insight into what’s eating at doctors, I turned to Jason Koma, a spokesman for the Ohio State Medical Association, the state’s largest trade group for physicians. Similarly, Koma also pointed to excessive regulation.

“Physicians are sometimes overcome by red tape, regulations and obstacles that prevent them from doing what they became physicians to do — deliver care to patients,” Koma said.

Koma also provided some specific insight into why so many doctors oppose health reform and listed three frequent complaints about Obamacare. First, the legislation didn’t include meaningful tort reform — always a pet issue for doctors. Second, much of the new health insurance coverage that Obamacare extends to the previously uninsured will come through Medicaid, a government program for low-income Americans that doctors often dislike due to its lower reimbursement rates compared with private insurance.

And third, the legislation didn’t provide a long-term solution to the reimbursement rates that Medicare provides to physicians via its sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula — commonly known as the “Doc Fix.”

“If you’re going to adequately reform the healthcare delivery system, you can’t leave a giant hole unfixed,” Koma said.

 [Photo from flickr user AhmadHammoud]

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