Wednesday night the first presidential debate will take place in Denver. The focus will be on domestic policy. But it’s a safe bet, while you’ll likely hear about ObamaCare, you won’t hear about the doctors on the front lines of medicine in the United States today. President Obama has said he likes the term ObamaCare because it signifies that "Obama cares," but if he does, why has he failed to consider life here in the medical trenches, where me and my fellow physicians are discouraged and concerned about how we will care for you and your family in this brave new world of health insurance expansion.
You may remember the famous ad that took aim at Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan (now the GOP’s vice presidential nominee) and his proposed privatizing of Medicare -- that showed the congressman pushing an elderly woman off a cliff. The hard truth is that it is we doctors who are going off the cliff, not granny.
President Obama and Congress should have checked with the country’s physicians before passing a law that relies on our efforts to handle health insurance expansion to more than 30 million more people.
A new on-line survey by the non-profit The Physicians Foundation, one of the largest doctors surveys ever performed, confirms that over two thirds of physicians are pessimistic about the future of medicine, over 84 percent feel that our profession is in decline, and a majority would not recommend it as a career for their children. (The survey was sent to over 600,000 doctors and over 14,000 responded).
If you ask my three children you will find that neither my wife or I (also a physician) are recommending a medical career to them despite the fact that we still manage to find ways to enjoy what we do.
Survey after survey from Deloitte, Sermo.com, the Doctor-Patient Medical Association, and Investors Business Daily have all previously shown that doctors are not happy with the direction of medicine and that it is impacting how we practice.
Over the past two years I’ve taken my own informal survey as have my patients and patients all across the country. Doctors everywhere are complaining. We are overburdened, underpaid, ill equipped to handle what we already have on our plates let alone the expected expansion under ObamaCare. Technology provides us with more complex tests and treatments that we are paid less for administering to an increasing volume of patients.
Patients are rightly worried that they won’t be able to reach us when they need us the most.
No one bothered to check with doctors before ObamaCare was passed but you better believe that they are checking with us now. And if you don’t like what doctors across the country are saying, forgive me if I say “I told you so.”
Perhaps most disturbing, more than half of doctors surveyed by The Physicians Foundation revealed that they will cut back on patients (including Medicare) or reduce patient access to their care over the next three years.
Doctors are exhausted, and we simple can’t handle all the paperwork or the growing list of medical problems presented to us by the chronically ill. This loss of man hours comes at a time when ObamaCare is expanding the entitlement and we are already faced with a physician shortage which will reach 160,000 by 2025, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. This patient expansion is taking place while we, doctors, are contracting -- it is a perfect storm.
I may be not one of the 60 percent of doctors (according to the survey) who would retire now if I had the means, but the federal government can’t rely on all of America's doctors having the resources, passion, or wherewithal to soldier on with the heavy burden of ObamaCare.
We doctors feel powerless. According to The Physician’s Foundation over 80 percent of us don’t feel we have a say about the future of medicine. How disturbing is that, to be riding on a train that is heading over a cliff and we can’t afford to get off, to slow the speed, or to change direction? We have been shouting at the engineer but he isn’t listening.
It isn’t granny who is going over the cliff, it’s me and my fellow doctors. Unfortunately, you patients are going along for the ride.
Marc Siegel MD is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Medical Center. He is a medical analyst and reporter for Fox News since 2008. His upcoming book concerns a mysterious viral outbreak.