What if nearly HALF of all physicians in America suddenly stopped practicing medicine? Such a drastic decrease in the already over-burdened physician workforce could become a reality, depending upon how the healthcare reform legislation is implemented, and which version of health reform passes into law. With needs for physicians projected to grow by over 20% by 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the physician workforce needs to be expanding, but it appears that it may soon be contracting instead.
In a physician survey conducted last week by The Medicus Firm, 24.7% of physicians responding stated that they would “retire early” if a public option is implemented, and an additional 21.0% of respondents stated that they would quit practicing medicine, even though they are nowhere near retirement age. This brings the amount of physicians who would leave medicine to a total of 45.7%.
Interestingly, the numbers were not as dramatic, but still troubling, if the public option is not part of the equation. 7.4% of physicians stated that they would quit practicing medicine, unless they were nearing retirement, in which case 21.8% said they would retire early. Even without the public option, nearly one third of physicians expect they’ll begin phasing out of medical practice in the near future, based on the effects of health reform on their practice.
Primary care physicians fear they won’t be able to survive health reform. About 25% of the total physicians responding to the survey are practicing as primary care providers (16.4% Family Medicine, plus 9% Internal Medicine). As medical industry professionals are aware, primary care physicians are already feeling squeezed by decreasing pay and increasing patient loads. Therefore, these physicians are very concerned about the affect health reform will have on their careers, based on the survey results. An overwhelming 46.3% of the primary care physicians surveyed stated that they will consider leaving medicine if health reform (with or without the public option) is passed, and if it has the effect they think it will on their practice.
Over 50% of physicians who responded predict that health reform will cause the quality of medical care to deteriorate in America. When asked how a health reform could affect the quality of medical care, 40.7% stated it would “decline or worsen somewhat,” while another 14.4% stated that the quality of medical care would “decline or worsen dramatically”. If a public option is part of the health reform package, 64.1% of physicians expressed that the quality of medical care in general will decline.
When asked to comment on their responses in their own words after completing the multiple choice questions, many recurring themes were seen in the physicians’ analyses of what’s needed for health reform to be successful:
- Tort reform is a must – Healthcare costs will continue to rise without something in place to help control medical malpractice costs, within reason.
- Current reform proposal(s) is/are too broad, bill is too large – specific issues need to be addressed individually with separate legislation – e.g. accessibility, quality, and affordability.
- Patient responsibility/ownership of their healthcare - Where are the incentives for patients to live a healthier lifestyle? What is the motivation for the patient to help lower their own healthcare costs with preventative measures, especially if they are not paying for any portion of his or her own healthcare?
- Lawmakers do not understand the healthcare system – more physicians and providers need to be involved in designing health reform policies.
- The general public (and many physicians) do not understand much of what’s being proposed – Many respondents commented that a sweeping bill is too complicated and no one really knows what is going to happen or understands what changes will actually be implemented, and how, until it is too late.
Media Inquiries: For the complete press release, additional survey results, or to set up an interview to discuss the report with an executive representative of The Medicus Firm, please contact Andrea Santiago: asantiago@TheMedicusFirm.com, or (800) 779-8804, ext. 224.