The news is mostly bad.
Obamacare and its Impact on Doctors
14 June 2010
By Robert E. Moffit
Don’t expect doctors to give the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a clean bill of health. The act will reinforce the worst features of existing third-party payment arrangements in both the private and public sectors — arrangements that already compromise the professional independence and integrity of the medical profession.
Doctors will find themselves subject to more, not less, government regulation and oversight. Moreover, they will become increasingly dependent on unreliable government reimbursement for medical services. Medicare and Medicaid payment, including irrational government payment updates, are preserved (though shaved) and expanded to larger portions of the population.
The Act creates even more bureaucracies with authority over the kinds of health benefits, medical treatments and procedures that Americans get through public and private health insurance. The new law provides no serious relief for tort liability. Not surprisingly, various surveys reveal deep dissatisfaction and demoralization among medical professionals.
Under the new law, an estimated 18 million of the 34 million who would gain coverage over the next 10 years would be enrolled in Medicaid, a welfare program jointly administered and funded by the federal government and the states.
Such a massive Medicaid expansion will displace private health coverage, and expand government control over health care financing and delivery. Physician payments in the major entitlement programs, Medicare and Medicaid, are well below the prevailing rates in the private sector. On average, doctors in Medicare are paid 81 percent of private payment; physicians in Medicaid are paid 56 percent of private payment. Needless to say, today there are sporadic access issues for patients in Medicare, and major access problems for patients in Medicaid.
The new law does not substantially change the general pattern of the government’s systems of physician payment. Indeed, it only expands their reach and adds new regulatory restrictions. For example, beginning this year, the new law will prohibit physicians from referring patients to hospitals in which they have ownership, with the exception of hospitals that treat a large number of county patients enrolled in Medicaid.