This summer is remarkably the twenty-seventh anniversary since the release of the classic romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally.The film’s theme was captured in Harry’s (Billy Crystal) line to Sally (Meg Ryan): “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.”
Last week marked another memorable anniversary. It has now been six years since passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “ACA” or better known as “ObamaCare”). Think back to the beginning with President Obama’s famous pledge: “If you like your health care plan you can keep it.” With six years behind us, and more than two full years since roll out of the exchanges, many Americans are now left asking, forget about our health care plans, what about our doctors? In a version of When America Met Nationalized Health Care, many of us are finding we can’t remain as patients to our doctors because ObamaCare is always getting in the way.
So why is ObamaCare causing our doctors to stray? The answer is not one, but many issues. We’ll cover each during a regular series here at Bold commenting on the law’s anniversary and impact. First, think of the age-old dating theory your mom or dad consoled you with after a bad break-up: “there are plenty of fish in the sea.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t so for doctors at the time the ACA was being debated in Congress and eventually signed in 2010 by the president. In November 2008, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicted a national shortage of 124,000 physicians by 2025.
Fast forward to the AAMC’s recently published findings from 2015 and there is still a projected 2025 shortage of up to 90,000 doctors, of which one-to-two-thirds will be due to a lack of primary care physicians.
These statistics are frightening and cannot be ignored. Americans still receive the majority of their health care through our family doctors, known as primary care physicians (PCPs). PCPs are the doctors that treat our colds, perform our physicals and order most of our tests. They are, and have always been the foundation, the middle class doctors of the health care system in this country. While it is doubtful folks should feel, or their PCP would expect, sympathy for their average salaries (typically $200,000 a year), let’s just say there are much more profitable specialties that anyone swimming in medical school debt would prefer to practice in. One trip past the parking lot of a cosmetic surgery center in any major U.S. city is all the evidence needed.
While the shortage of PCPs in this country has continued, ObamaCare opened a dam in the nation’s river of patients with, as of February last year, close to 17 million newly insured Americans entering hospitals, clinics, and PCP offices.
Not enough doctors, more patients coming into the system daily wanting to see that “right one,” and a lack of motivation for new PCP prospects to fill the gap. Sound like a Millennial professional’s dating dilemma? Sadly, it’s the first of many reasons why your doctor is leaving you and ObamaCare keeps getting in the way.
Next time, we’ll track the megastructure organizations promoted under ObamaCare that are swooping up your formerly independent, shingle hanging local doctors into a web of bureaucracy. Sensing another movie theme here? Coming Soon: Where is Jeff Goldblum When We Need Him? – Doctors and No Independence Days.