Unless you embrace some serious measures to make sure you are taking care of your health, you may find yourself in a serious medical situation. As soon as Obamacare takes effect, this program, along with a number of other factors, may make it much harder to visit a doctor.
So, there’s only one person you can rely on to promote your good health – yourself.
For one thing, we are facing a looming, serious shortage of physicians. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), we are facing a dire predicament. You can expect a shortage of more than 90,000 doctors over the next 10 years.
The anticipated shortage derives from a handful of factors:
- The Census Bureau projects a 36 percent growth in the number of Americans over age 65; the population segment with the greatest healthcare needs.
- The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the physician supply will increase by only 7 percent in the next 10 years.
- The passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare), intended to insure an additional 32 million Americans, plus 15 million patients who will become eligible for Medicare, will vastly increase the demand on physician services.
An Aging Population
As I point out in my new book, Navigating Obamacare, “In addition to a growing elderly population, people are living longer and experiencing age-sensitive conditions, like cancer, that require specialists and surgeons. The AAMC’s Center for Workforce Studies believes there will be 45,000 too few primary physicians and a shortage of 46,000 surgeons and specialists in this next decade.”
Part of the doctor deficit will no doubt be caused by early retirement of doctors not happy with the direction American healthcare is taking.
A survey by The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions surveyed more than 600 physicians and found that six in 10 (62 percent) said it was likely many of their colleagues will retire earlier than planned in the next one to three years.
It’s Likely Your Doctor May Refuse to Treat You
If you are on Medicaid or Medicare, or will be accepted into the Medicaid expansion, you may have a hard time seeing a doctor. Of more than 1 million physicians, therapists and counselors nationwide, only 43 percent currently accept Medicaid, according to a new study by HealthPocket, a technology firm that compares and ranks health plans.
As of May 2013, 26 States and the District of Columbia have opted to participate in the Obamacare Medicaid expansion and it’s estimated that 5 million to 8 million new patients will gain access to Medicaid coverage under the law.
These changes in our healthcare system have doctors concerned.
“If the current Medicaid acceptance rates hold true for 2014, timely access to care for those relying on Medicaid is likely to become more difficult as enrollees compete for an already inadequate pool of doctors,” said Kev Coleman, the head of research and data at HealthPocket.
Doctors are accepting fewer and fewer Medicaid patients for two reasons: Too little pay and too much paperwork. And it’s only going to worsen.
On average, Medicaid physicians are only paid 56 percent of what private insurance pays. Lower payment rates already discourage doctors from accepting Medicaid recipients, which has lead to accessibility issues and emergency room overcrowding.
As more patients enroll in this broken program, it will place even more financial strain on physicians who treat them. Doctors will be faced with the decision to either discontinue treating Medicaid patients or accept even more patients at the lower payment rate.
Additionally, doctors will have to focus increasingly on red tape—government rules and regulations, mountains of paperwork—rather than the specific needs of their patients.
To retain the doctors who take Medicaid patients and to recruit new ones, Obamacare promised to increase Medicaid primary care payments to the same level as Medicare’s in 2013 and 2014. However, those increases were supposed to start in January 2012, and have already been delayed.
Because so much of Obamacare is simply speculation, just like the insurance exchanges, many doctors are cutting their losses and cutting Medicaid and Medicare patients altogether.
The message of all these developments is clear: When it comes to reliable medical care and better health, you’ve got to be self-reliant. Unless you eat a healthy diet of whole foods with lots of fruits and vegetables, exercise and keep your stress levels down, you may find yourself in a health crisis without significant medical help.
- Michael Cutler, M.D.