Question: What will be the impact of ObamaCare on my ability to get the care I need? Will I still be able to get to my physician?
President Obama came to office with many promises that remain unresolved, including firm assurance that under ObamaCare, you would still be able to see your doctor and keep your private health insurance. The latter promise was made despite his stated goal of eliminating the private insurance option by creating a single payer system, which translates into government-controlled, socialized medicine.
Several trends are converging that are alarming, starting with Medicare. Congress is toying with temporary "doctor fixes," the temporary delays in deep Medicare payment cuts. Should these cuts happen, says the Medical Association of Georgia, about 15% of Georgia physicians will continue to see Medicare patients. About half the rest will not take new Medicare patients, and the rest will stop seeing Medicare patients at all. This is not from a lack of concern about the welfare of seniors. Under the proposed rates, a private physician could fill an office with Medicare patients, work all day, and eventually go broke.
Another trend is that private free-standing medical clinics are disappearing. By 2013 (next year!), two-thirds of them will have been absorbed by business interests. Private docs are simply not willing to keep fighting to stay in small businesses by themselves. The pressure of running a small business is significant, with payroll taxes (I live in fear of the 15th of every month), rising utility costs, labor, and daily management of all aspects of a business. Physicians prepared to take care of patients—not manage a business.
Another issue on the horizon is ObamaCare itself. There is a disturbing report from the California Medical Association's Solo/Small Group Practice Forum this week. It quotes a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) employee, stating that "a non-enrolled physician who treats Medicare beneficiaries must either involuntarily enroll in Medicare or else provide medical care free of charge." This may sound shocking, but Medicare has always been this way. If they disallow a charge for whatever technicality, the doctor can be forced to return all copays and pay for the patient's treatment themselves.
ObamaCare and Medicare are discussed together because the former is to be patterned after the latter. It could be that doctors are forced into ObamaCare whether they want to participate or not. If this happens, there will be accelerated attrition in medical manpower.
I for one will do all I can to stay in practice for the patients we serve. It is important to me to know that they get not just the care they seek, but the caring they need. Meanwhile, it is wise to get healthy. And for the sake of us all, ObamaCare must go.