If you like your doctor, you can keep you doctor. That was the infamous claim from President Obama and other supporters of the Affordable Care Act, affectionately known to many as “Obamacare.” But in the three years since the legislation was signed into law, some harsh realities have emerged proving the claim false. If the increased premiums didn’t limit patient access to doctors, the shocking number of doctors dropping out of the profession might.
A recent Deloitte survey of U.S. physicians found that the medical profession may be in serious jeopardy “as it loses clinical autonomy and compensation.” Such a shift is making many docs rethink their careers, including Dr. John Curry of Fairfax, Va. In an email to conservative columnist Cal Thomas, Dr. Curry explained:
“Forty years ago, when I began practicing primary care medicine, medical decision-making and its funding were in the hands of patients and their physicians. The only protection patients had lay in the professional ethics of their doctors. In modern terms that sounds pretty skimpy, but think about it for a minute. The first precept was ‘Do no harm’. Ask yourself: can you hold your government to that standard?
“The underlying principle was that the physician had to put his patients’ interests ahead of his own. This was, of course, the Golden Rule, formalized into standards for professional care. It was also the reason I, and many in my class, applied to medical school. It was the reason my wife’s older brother, who practiced medicine in a small town in West Texas, prided himself on the fact that much of the time he ‘was paid in peas and pies’. Again, ask yourself, is there any health insurance company or government agency that you can count upon to put your health above their interests?
“The decades have rolled by, and the sea-changes have come. Costs have risen, and personalized care has faded. The monstrosity has been birthed, and soon you will look in vain if you are seeking a personal physician who knows you, cares about you, and to whom you have ready access. You will find only systems, ready to suck you up, give you a number, and provide you with federally approved accountable care in a sterile environment populated by highly regulated strangers. And it will cost you a lot! (Whatever anyone says, prepare for a future where your health costs will be higher and your choices fewer!)
“I am in my mid-70s and have both the capacity and willingness to care for patients for another decade. But I am retiring. I cannot stand it anymore. More than half of my time in the office is spent filling out forms, writing letters, responding to inquiries, and attending to ‘urgent’ matters that did not exist 10 years ago. And every year my income is less. At this point I would rather be paid nothing and have the freedom to decide what is right for my patients. ACA is only another straw, but for this tired camel, it will break my back.”