March 17, 2010--What if nearly HALF of all physicians in America suddenly stopped practicing medicine? Such a drastic decrease in the physician workforce could become a reality, depending upon how the healthcare reform legislation is implemented, and which version of health reform passes into law.
In a physician survey conducted December 2009 by The Medicus Firm, a national physician search firm, 24.7% of physicians stated that they would "retire early" if a public option is implemented, and an additional 21.0% of respondents stated that they would quit practicing medicine, even though they are nowhere near retirement. This brings the amount of physicians who would leave medicine to a total of 45.7%.
Interestingly, the numbers were not as dramatic, but still troubling, if the public option is not part of the equation. If health reform passes without the public option, 7.4% of physicians stated that they would quit practicing medicine, unless they were nearing retirement, in which case 21.8% said they would retire early, bringing the total loss of physician workforce to nearly one-third of physicians leaving medicine.
"What many people may not realize is that health reform could impact physician supply in such a way that the quality of healthcare could suffer," states Jim Stone, Managing Partner at The Medicus Firm's Dallas office. "Based on the physicians' responses to the survey, health reform could significantly intensify the effects of the physician shortage. Depending upon which version of the health reform bill passes, the reality is that there may not be enough doctors to provide quality medical care to all of these newly insured people."
Over 50% of physicians who responded predict that a health reform would cause the quality of medical care to deteriorate in America. When asked how health reform could affect the quality of medical care, 40.7% stated it would "decline or worsen somewhat," while another 14.4% stated that the quality of medical care would "decline or worsen dramatically". If a public option is implemented as part of health reform, 64.1% of physicians predict that the quality of medical care in general will decline.
"Many physicians feel that they cannot continue to practice if patient loads increase while pay decreases. The overwhelming prediction from physicians is that health reform, if implemented inappropriately, could create a detrimental combination of circumstances, and result in an environment in which it is not possible for most physicians to continue practicing medicine," states Kevin Perpetua, Managing Partner for The Medicus Firm's Atlanta division. "With an average debt of $140,000, and many graduates approaching a quarter of a million dollars in school loans, being a doctor is becoming less and less feasible. Health reform, and increasing government control of medicine may be the final straw that causes the physician workforce to break down."
Only 23.8% of physicians unequivocally support a public option for health coverage, according to the survey responses. 67.9% agree that reform is needed in some fashion, but not with the public option, and not as one sweeping bill.
About The Medicus Firm: The Medicus Firm is a national, retained physician search firm that is based in Dallas, TX and Atlanta, GA. The Medicus Firm was formed by the June 2009 merger of Medicus Partners physician search in Dallas, and The MD Firm of Atlanta. With one of the largest, most experienced physician recruiting and consulting teams in the physician search industry, associates of The Medicus Firm consult with hundreds of physicians each month. The Medicus Firm has been named one of the "Best Places to Work" in Texas for 2009.
Media Inquiries: For complete survey results, or to schedule an interview with a representative of The Medicus Firm, please contact:
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The Medicus Firm | 800.779.8804 x224 office | 678.835.3945 fax
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