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The Looming Reality of ObamaCare's Doctor Shortage

A new analysis finds that the health insurance plans offered on ObamaCare exchanges offer a choice of 34 percent fewer health care providers, on average, than plans offered on the private market. The report specifies that:

Specifically, the analysis finds that exchange plan networks include 42 percent fewer oncology and cardiology specialists; 32 percent fewer mental health and primary care providers; and 24 percent fewer hospitals. Importantly, care provided by out-of-network providers does not count toward the out-of-pocket limits put in place by the ACA.

This is not surprising. The decline in doctor availability has been a long-foreseen consequence of the Affordable Care Act. The Wall Street Journal reported that the number of doctors per capita is in decline for the first time in two generations, medical school admissions are down 6 percent, and the American Association of Medical Colleges has predicted a shortage of 160,000 physicians by 2025. The only people who didn’t see this coming are the ones who don’t understand that incentives matter.

One of the innumerable mistakes in the Affordable Care Act is the focus on the demand side of medicine, and specifically of insurance coverage. This is several steps removed from the actual problem that needs to be addressed: the cost and availability of health care. These variables fall fundamentally on the supply side of the equation. Lower barriers to entry in the medical profession would increase the number of doctors, and the resulting competition would drive prices down while simultaneously reducing wait times and making it easier to find a doctor.

By forcing more people to buy insurance plans, and regulating the pricing structure of these plans can charge, ObamaCare is driving more people towards doctors, while at the same time reducing doctors’ ability to get paid. Combined with other regulations in the law, like the costly requirement to digitize all medical records, is it any wonder that so many doctors are hanging up their stethoscopes - or failing to pick them up in the first place?

This new study reinforces what we already knew: ObamaCare has always been about insurance, not actual health care. But all the insurance in the world does no good if there are no doctors available to treat you.

The trend towards less choice that ObamaCare is forcing on consumers can only lead to higher prices and a lower quality of care. More long term, the implications of a health care system that disincentives people from becoming doctors is far more dire.

celina.pittman's picture

Grover Syck: You must be another of those do-gooder people who like to talk about helpinbg others but doesn't actually do anything to help others otherwise you would most definitely see that there is a huge doctor shortage now vs 2011. Do you have any disabled persons in your household? How about mentally ill? Or, have you or any of your loved ones needed specialty services lately? Obviously not! I did an essay in 2011 on the Florida Medicaid and Medicare programs which our governor privatized at the beginning of 2012. Even before this took place Florida lost over 88,000 practicing physicians because they were waiting two and three years to get paid by the Feds, and were only being paid abut 15% of their usual patient fees. With Obamacare, all of these physicians were forced to take out millions of dollars in malpractice insurance and other fees associated with being an "Obamacare" practitioner. We have since been rationed to DEATH, our healthcare wait time has increased by an average of about 4-6 months for new patients and the specialty doctors (neurology, cardiology, oncology, etc.) are even longer wait times. You are either a moron or you are wealthy and do not have to participate in this abomination of a law. Also, I know as an American citizen you must realize that penalizing someone in this country for not purchasing something they don't want is UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!!

Grover Syck's picture
Grover Syck

This is nothing but more of the anti-ACA elephant crap.
There will be no "Obama care doctor shortage"

Just more of the "if you cannot kill it directly, bad mouth it to death".

celina.pittman's picture

See my previous reply. I just wanted to add one more thing. those of us who had insurance prior to the ACA have either lost their plans, or their primary care physicians (as I did), and my husband's employer has paid the premiums for the employees since 1981. They have cut out all other benefits to employees except the insurance which is the only thing that kept my husband working at this dead-end job since 1981. As of January 2013, He (my husband) received his W-2 form along with a letter from company heads who stated that" Thanks to Obamacare this company will no longer be paying employee premiums. If you want to keep your health coverage with this comapny you will now be responsible for those premiums individually. My husbands weekly deduction for him and our family went from 62.00 per week to now $129.00 per week. He has not had a raise since early 2000's so keeping up with the cost of living is hard enough but now he pays nearly 600 dollars per month for healthcare for himself, our 7 year old, and me. Neither of them have been to a doctor in several years for anything other than a check-up so tell me why are we having to pay these kinds of premiums? Shared responsibility of course and I'm sure Mr. Syck that you are not one of those people on the sharing side if you are FOR this legislation. You must be one of those that needs your healthcare paid for by someone else.

1digger's picture

Hate reality much? There already IS a doctor shortage fool, even before obamacare but it's even worse since that abomination was passed. You cannot dump millions of new patients, legal and ILLEGAL onto health care or any service industry for that matter if there are not enough 'servers' to fill the need. It's called cause and effect that goes along with supply and demand. Along with the shortage comes 'rationing' another situation that the low information voters couldn't understand would happen; it's happening in Canada and is beginning to happen here under obamacare. Don't believe it can happen? Go ahead and open your home to the neighborhood for all to eat, drink and sleep whenever they want; you'll be short of resources in short order and crying like all liberals do when they realize their policies don't work. If you cannot understand those basics, you cannot connect the dots of what is plain when you put facts up against the obamacare debacle.

Isabel Hogue's picture
Isabel Hogue

ObamaCare has always been about profits. It is not about insurance.

In the new ObamaCare vocabulary, these plans are called "health plans," and they include many pre-paid services that are NOT insurance.

The "doctor shortage" is baked into the system. Since insurance companies can no longer factor health conditions (that is, the probability of claims) into the equation, they must put greater emphasis on other tools to reduce the impact of claims on profits.

Plan provider networks are an important cost-control tool. By limiting the number of available doctors and facilities, the insurance companies are able to make their plans less attractive to people who have, for example, cancer. Those high-claim customers will self-select plans that offer access to the providers they need.

Other cost control measures are made attractive by the new vocabulary. Things like "wellness" and "value-based medicine" sound positive, but from the insurance company standpoint they are means to reducing claims and maximizing profits for the company.

An interesting podcast on the topic of ObamaCare is found on The Shift Shapers Podcast with David Saltzman: