Archived Story

Have Obamacare? Good luck finding a doctor!

Published 10:02pm Monday, June 23, 2014

I’ve previously discussed the current and growing problem of the shortage of primary care physicians, and by the year 2020 it is anticipated that there will be 45,000 fewer primary care physicians than will actually be needed.  A growing number of physicians do not accept Medicaid patients because of low reimbursement rates, and you now have several elements of the perfect storm that’s coming.
There’s one more problem called “Medical Homelessness” and it’s yet another unintended consequence of – you guessed it – Obamacare. Let’s assume that our government is giving us reliable facts, particularly about the 8-million people who signed up for Obamacare through state exchanges and on the healthcare.gov website.
Since California is often a bellwether State, things that happen there first are often found to reoccur over time throughout the rest of the country.
Californians embraced Obamacare, and are now discovering that thousands of doctors will not accept any patient with an Obamacare policy. Picture that you need to see a doctor, you can’t find one anywhere near you, the few who do accept Obamacare are already overloaded with patients, and the wait to see the doctor is no longer going to be days, but weeks or longer. That’s how you become categorized as “medically homeless.”
Initially, lists of physicians were provided to people signing up for Obamacare. But in some cases, those doctors were not accepting new patients. CBS San Francisco reported that the “Covered California” Obamacare exchange was “…automatically enrolling doctors…” who never signed up for the program and never intended to because of the program’s low reimbursement scheme.
Today the future for Americans insured under Obamacare is challenging. Baby-boomers are aging and their medical needs are growing and creating a massive burden on the current healthcare system and workforce. The number of doctors retiring is another part of the problem, as there are nowhere near the numbers of new, younger physicians coming out of medical schools to replace them.
For some it’s because of the diminished reimbursements for doctors as well as the incredible debt many of them carry when they come go into general practice. Statistics show that a career as a primary care physician means you earn about $3-million less than doctors in specialty fields of practice. For others, the lack of appeal is in the long hours plus the nights and weekends. With about half of the physicians in training being women, many prefer to find part-time work to balance their career with family life and their own children.
Regardless of how inexpensive health insurance might be – and that too is a questionable assumption with the Obamacare deductibles and co-pays – the bottom line question is, what good is having insurance if you’re sick or injured and can’t use it because the doctor can’t or won’t see you?
Ron Kauffman is a Consultant & Expert on Medicare, the ACA (Obamacare) and Issues of Aging. His consulting practice serves clients in Henderson, Polk & Brevard Counties.  He is the author of Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease, available from him or as a Kindle book on Amazon.com. His podcasts can be heard weekly at www.seniorlifestyles.net. Contact him at (828) 696-9799 or by email at:  drron561@gmail.com.

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