Monday, July 30, 2012

Obamacare Will Worsen Doctor Shortage

For those who think Obamacare will be the panacea for their health insurance woes, think again. Try and get an appointment with a specialist these days, and good luck if you can see someone in less than a month. When I got extremely sick with a nasty Ulcerative Colitis flare-up three years ago, I called two gastroenterologists that had been highly recommended and neither of them had any appointments available. The soonest I could see a third doctor was three weeks, and it was another 2 weeks before he was able to perform the dreaded colonoscopy.

You're a fool if you don't think it's going to get worse. Doctors will choose to retire early, or forgo insurance altogether. There are already MDs who don't accept medicare, and you can't force them to.

An article in the New York Times- that was also published in my local paper today- claims that you might have the coverage but there won't be enough doctors to take care of your medical needs. It cites the Inland Empire, which includes Riverside, Ontario and San Bernardino:

President Obama’s health care law is expected to extend insurance coverage to more than 300,000 people by 2014. But coverage will not necessarily translate into care: Local health experts doubt there will be enough doctors to meet the area’s needs. There are not enough now.

And it gets worse:

Other places around the country, including the Mississippi Delta, Detroit and suburban Phoenix, face similar problems. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that in 2015 the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than needed. And that number will more than double by 2025, as the expansion of insurance coverage and the aging of baby boomers drive up demand for care. Even without the health care law, the shortfall of doctors in 2025 would still exceed 100,000.

Health experts, including many who support the law, say there is little that the government or the medical profession will be able to do to close the gap by 2014, when the law begins extending coverage to about 30 million Americans. It typically takes a decade to train a doctor.

“We have a shortage of every kind of doctor, except for plastic surgeons and dermatologists,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, the dean of the new medical school at the University of California, Riverside, founded in part to address the region’s doctor shortage. “We’ll have a 5,000-physician shortage in 10 years, no matter what anybody does.”

Experts describe a doctor shortage as an “invisible problem.” Patients still get care, but the process is often slow and difficult. In Riverside, it has left residents driving long distances to doctors, languishing on waiting lists, overusing emergency rooms and even forgoing care.

Read the rest of the depressing story here.

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