Why doctors hate Obamacare

By Katie Kieffer

Dr. Fixit

Image credit: “Dr Fixit is on the Job” by Mike Bitzenhofer on Flickr via Creative Commons.

Your doctor won’t tell you this when you’re sitting in his office, so I will: He hates Obamacare. It’s time you know why your doctor is concerned about Obamacare.

Doctors already live in constant fear of malpractice lawsuits. The last thing they want to do is stick their necks out and publicly attack Obamacare. Doctors also do not have an effective D.C. lobby group or public advocate.

A 2011 survey by Jackson and Coker reports that most doctors believe the mega-lobbyist group, American Medical Association (AMA), fails to represent docters’ interests on Capitol Hill. Forbes reports: “Much of that dissatisfaction stems from the organization’s support for President Obama’s contentious health care reform package. … [The AMA] has backed a law that would force some physicians to work longer hours for less pay and others to operate in perpetually overcrowded emergency rooms.”

Doctors question how the AMA can represent them in D.C. while cutting back-door deals with the government. Doctors have been effectively forced to fund the AMA by purchasing Medicare and Medicaid billing code books. Dr. Jane Orient, a privately practicing doctor in Arizona, blew the whistle when she discovered that, beginning in 1998, the Health Care Financing Administration gave: “… the AMA the exclusive copyright on the codes…” reports The New American.

Since the AMA does not speak up for doctors, I will try to be a voice for doctors. Here are two primary reasons why your doctor hates Obamacare:

1.) Doctors Need Ownership

Dagny Taggart is the heroine of Ayn Rand’s novel, “Atlas Shrugged.” At one point, Dagny asks a renowned medical doctor named Dr. Hendricks why he left the medical practice. He says: “I quit when medicine was placed under State control … Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquiring that skill [performing brain surgery]? …I would not let them [politicians] dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything—except the desires of the doctors. … Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it—and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn’t.”

Obamacare removes ownership from the medical field. An individual doctor no longer owns his education, career or even day-to-day lifestyle choices. Under Obamacare, he goes from feeling a sense of caring ownership for his patients and his craft to feeling over-worked, under-paid and micro-managed.

Doctor's office

Image credit: “2009_04_24” by Dennis S. Hurd on Flickr via Creative Commons.

Obamacare effectively steals from doctors by confiscating the skills, energy and time they have devote to medicine. When you steal a man’s life-long passion; his hard-won goal; his lifestyle—do not expect him to be happy or to maintain his conscientious passion for practicing medicine.

2.) Doctors Need Motivation and Compensation

A better name for Obamacare is the “16.7 Percent Paycut,” because that is what it means for doctors. In order to “save” Medicare, Obamacare asks doctors to take a 16.7 percent paycut. And, guess what? Patients will suffer, not just doctors. Patients will suffer because smart and caring young men and women will forfeit their dreams of entering the medical profession and choose alternate careers that promise less stress and higher pay.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit my brother at his medical school and meet some of the other medical students. They were intelligent and hard-working individuals who clearly cared about helping people. I did not get the sense that money was their primary motivation in becoming doctors.

Indeed, 60 percent of doctors are concerned that Obamacare will diminish their ability to care for patients, finds a Feb. 29, 2012 survey completed by The Doctors Company Market Research, America’s largest surgeon and physician medical liability insurer.

Money simply allows smart young Americans, like my brother and his peers, to justify spending an additional four-to-ten years after college holed up in a library or in a grueling residency program just to graduate with $160,000 in debt (the median debt load for medical school grads according to a 2010 Mayo Clinic study).

There are 70 million baby-boomers out there who will be looking for geriatricians soon. But there is only one geriatrician for every 2,600 Americans over the age of 75, according to the American Geriatrics Society. Why is this? Money. Geriatricians made a median salary of $183,523 in 2010, reports the Medical Group Management Association. America desperately needs more geriatricians, but young doctors are choosing to specialize in other areas because they can earn two-to-three times more.

Money is a suitable incentive, especially when you are asking people to give up their youth studying while amassing debt. But Obamacare removes the practical “profit motive” of capitalism and replaces it with the idealistic “poverty motive” of socialism.

A Better Way

I think trying to save something that is hopelessly broken, like Medicare, is a mistake. Ultimately, I think it’s a choice between complete government control over limited medical care resources or a more freedom-based system where prices are lower because competition exists and health insurance is actually insurance (now, insurance covers basic, common care which is ridiculous and causes overall healthcare costs to rise). Insurance should only be involved in major medical care; otherwise, it’s not insurance, it’s maintenance.

When it comes to medicine, you get what you pay for. As patients, I think we should be willing to pay a little more in exchange for the highest quality of care. Sorry, President Obama, but your plan is “JurassicParkCare”—doctors go extinct and their patients go untreated while your buddies in Hollywood cheer.

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  1. sadeci0 says:

    You allude to this, but doctors need to be able to choose exactly what type of care (treatment, medicine, services by other health professionals) their patients need. They will have more of these decisions taken from them. Think about working hard to get into medical school, going through several ridiculously demanding years of school, internship, residency, fellowship … only to be told you are limited in deciding how to treat patients. The quality of health care WILL digress!

  2. Lodzia says:

    All I can say is that we should pray for our current docs and future docs…especially our future doctors.
    Anyone going into medicine in this day, and in the future, is not going into it for the high buck. These med students are taking out a ton of loans to educate themselves in order to take care of all of us. I just pray that they all have the guts and ability to not get sucked into socialized medicine.

    You always write really good articles, Katie…keep it up, girl!

  3. Peyton says:

    Great article, Katie! Thanks for sticking up for docs and patients!

  4. unaccounted4 says:

    One thing I haven't heard mentioned much…according to the Surgeon General, we have an obesity epidemic in this country. Go to a public place where people are and you will notice this is true ( especially in the South where I live). Obesity causes a hosts of health problems, some mild and some chronically serious. This creates an added burden on an already understaffed medical community. Katie is right about people becoming discouraged about careers in medicine.

  5. Kris says:

    Terrific column, Katie! I love everything you write. This is such an important topic and we need to act now in order to reform the system.

    I hope your readers are encouraged to get involved at their local levels — even if you aren't a politician, you can make a big difference!

  6. dmaul says:

    Quoting Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, I love it.

    • Kris says:

      I agree! 🙂

      • alan says:

        Medscape.com/features/slideshow/compensation/2012 gives current info on drs salaries (NOT A PROBLEM!) Ocare has lots of problems, clearly not a cure-all, but physician salaries is THE LEAST of our problems (as stats show)…their educational expense is outofcontrol/outrageous/unjustifiable–but so is the price of medical practice and medicine…the fact is current medical practice finance is unsustainable, as is education.

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