NEMJ poll: 46% of family practitioners will feel forced out of medicine if ObamaCare passes

Update: The NEMJ has edited the page at the link.  They note that the survey was taken in December by The Mediscus Firm and now refer readers to their site.  Originally, the data below was listed on the NEMJ site with a date of March/April 2010.

Original post follows …


And you thought wait times were long now.  The New England Journal of Medicine, hardly a bastion of conservative thought, polled health-care providers to determine their reaction to ObamaCare, and discovered that it has many doctors looking for the exits.  Almost half of all general-practice doctors would feel compelled to leave medicine altogether if it passes:

  • 46.3% of primary care physicians (family medicine and internal medicine) feel that the passing of health reform will either force them out of medicine or make them want to leave medicine.
  • 36% of physicians would not recommend medicine as a career, regardless of health reform.  27% would recommend medicine as a career but not if health reform passes.
  • 62.7% of physicians feel that health reform is needed but should be implemented in a more targeted, gradual way, as opposed to the sweeping overhaul that is in legislation.

Oddly, NEMJ polled heavily on the public option, which has been out of the ObamaCare proposal since mid-December when the Senate finally killed it.  The public option is deeply unpopular among physicians, with only 29% in favor of it.  Forty-five percent would either retire or quit if it passed, and 71% believe their income would fall with a public option — probably from experience with Medicare and Medicaid.

If we want to maintain access to the health-care system, we need to maintain and increase the provider supply. Policy makers should note the pricing signals being sent by ObamaCare.  If it discourages almost half of all current primary-care physicians now, what will that supply look like in ten years?  It won’t be growing, especially with the industry’s eminences grises taking a pass on mentoring new talent into the field.  The best and brightest will turn away from medicine to other fields — probably the law, which will get a huge boost from ObamaCare — leaving future positions to be filled by others.

Paul Hsieh says this is doctors going Galt, or about to do so.  If not quite that dramatic, it’s a big indicator that there will be fewer of them to see patients in the not-so-distant future, which means long wait times and less care for more patients in the system.