Ninety percent of doctors think the U.S. medical system in on the wrong track and 83 percent say changes in the medical system have made them think about quitting, according to a national survey quoted by U.S. Rep. John Sullivan after the U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“According to a survey conducted by the Doctor Patient Medical Association, an alarming 83 (percent) of American physicians have considered leaving their practices as a result of Obamacare,” Sullivan's statement says.
If a large portion of American physicians walked away from medicine because of the Affordable Care Act, the law designed to improve U.S. health care obviously would be taking it backward. But some cast doubts about the survey's authority.
When asked about the statistics, Sullivan's staff referred to online results from the association, which shows the surveyed physicians weren't specifically reacting to the Affordable Care Act, but to “current changes in the medical system.”
The association, an advocacy group that has worked against the Affordable Care Act, delivered its survey by fax to 16,227 physicians' offices earlier this year and got 699 completed surveys.
The online results included written comments from many of the doctors — with the physicians' names withheld — indicating they were frustrated with the Affordable Care Act and many other things, including malpractice law, Medicare and Medicaid rates and insurance company and government bureaucracy.
“I know how to take care of sick and injured people. PLEASE, let me do my job the way I was trained to do it,” one family practice physician from Colorado wrote. “I am so sick and tired of people with vastly inferior training, or no medical training whatsoever, telling me how to treat my patients — and all of them have their own agenda: Power and or money.”
The same physician goes on to say, “Obamacare will destroy the best medical system the world has ever seen, and it will bankrupt the nation.”
Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, is a physician and a strident opponent of the Affordable Care Act. He cited similar statistics in a Wednesday speech.
Twenty-five percent of doctors over the age of 55 quit the profession in 2011, Ritze said to the Republican Men's Club of Tulsa County.
In a telephone interview Thursday, Ritze said the loss of physicians was “directly related” to the Affordable Care Act.
Ritze couldn't give names of any physicians who have left the medical profession because of the federal law, but described the cases of two Tulsa neurosurgeons who have recently left the field.
Survey draws critics
Others say that while there is a good deal of frustration among physicians, the survey's results are dubious.
Stanley Hupfeld, longtime CEO of Integris Health, the state's largest health care system and hospital network, said there is a lot of legitimate frustration among physicians with a lot of things, including the health care law — but it's ridiculous to think they are going to walk away from the field in large numbers.
After retiring from the top of Integris Health, Hupfeld became chairman of the Integris Foundations and wrote a book, “Political Malpractice,” about health reform. His book finds good and bad points with the Affordable Care Act, and proposes his own agenda for reforming the health care system.
He says he's a Republican who sometimes votes for Democrats, if they are the better candidate.
“There may be a lot of doctors who are unhappy, but they're not quitting,” he said. “With the time and effort it takes to become a physician, these people may gripe a lot and they may be unhappy about this or that, but the idea that they're going to quit medicine in the middle of their careers is just silly.”
The survey was conducted by a small, right-wing group and received very few responses, he said.
“If you'd done that same survey ten years ago and you'd surveyed that same group of physicians, you'd have gotten the same results,” he said. “There's a group of physicians who tend to be unhappy about everything.”
Sullivan said the Affordable Care Act is destructive to the nation's corps of physicians.
“It defies all logic to think the federal government can improve our health care system by running those we depend on to provide it out of business,” he said. “Obamacare is the most significant change to our nation's health care system in history and a driving force behind the concerns many health care providers have.”
States get more time on Medicaid
WASHINGTON — Administration officials are telling the states there's no pressure to decide whether to expand Medicaid for their low-income residents under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law. The Supreme Court gave states the option of accepting or rejecting the Medicaid expansion. It's designed to cover about 15 million low-income people around the country, starting in 2014. In a letter to Republican governors Friday, the administration said there's no deadline for states to decide on Medicaid. And states can receive federal funding to explore their options without having to pay it back if they later decline. Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of Medicare and Medicaid, says in the letter she expects states “will recognize that this is a good deal,” since federal taxpayers are covering the lion's share of costs.