Obamacare Failing, Doctors Will Take Future Blame

Justin Haskins Heartland Institute
Published March 25, 2015

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on March 9 projecting Obamacare premium prices to outpace both private insurance premiums and government spending between 2016 and 2018.

This report comes just one week before The Washington Post’s Guy Gugliotta reported on Sunday that rural health facilities across the nation are struggling to survive. Since 2010, 48 rural hospitals have closed, according to the National Rural Health Association.

“Experts and practitioners cite declining federal reimbursements for hospitals under the Affordable Care Act as the principal reasons for the recent closures,” reported Gugliotta. “Besides cutting back on Medicare, the law reduced payments to hospitals for the uninsured …”

Needless to say, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is causing all sorts of chaos, but don’t expect the Obama administration to admit defeat anytime soon. While the evidence against the law is stunning and apparent, Democrats would rather see George W. Bush become president again than allow Obamacare to falter.

This doesn’t mean, however, that someone—or some group—isn’t going to be held responsible for the failures caused by the ACA. In Washington, DC, someone is always to blame, and in this case, doctors, not incompetent bureaucrats and greedy politicians, will be next on the blame-anybody-but-Democrats media tour.

It may seem counterintuitive to some since doctors spend their whole lives healing sick people, including many sick and poor people, but the reality is that doctors actually make easy political targets for the Democrat machine.

For starters, Doctors are wealthy, especially highly trained specialists. The average base pay for a family practitioner is $189,000 according to Merritt Hawkins & Associates’ 2012 Review of Physician Recruiting Incentives. But this figure seems paltry in comparison to the average salaries of cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons, and neurosurgeons, all of whom earn more than $500,000 per year on average.

Specialists’ earnings put them securely within the “top 1 percent” category in virtually all states, the very same group of people demonized by the Occupy Wall Street crowd and their DNC supporters.

Second, most doctors are not politically active and are poorly represented in government. In the current Congress, there are only 17 physicians out of the 535 available seats despite the fact that doctors are some of the most educated people in the nation.

Third, many doctors have already started to turn away Medicare and Medicaid patients because the government’s reimbursement rates are too low, making doctors as a group seem unsympathetic to the elderly and the impoverished.

Their wealth, lack of a big public microphone, and seemingly uncaring behavior with Medicaid and Medicare patients make doctors the obvious scapegoat for Obamacare’s struggles. Rather than raising taxes or cutting benefits, both of which are politically difficult to accomplish, Democrats looking to defend the ACA will pin increasing costs and reduced benefits and coverage on greedy, rich, selfish doctors more interested in helping retain their status as members of the 1 percent than saving lives and serving the public.

The political hit pieces and election-season television commercials practically write themselves.

It’s true that doctors earn a lot of money, but notice the key word there is “earn.” Doctors are required to attend four years of college, four years of medical school, and then as many as seven years of residency, where most doctors make roughly $40,000–$50,000 per year. They spend thousands of dollars on required internships, residency interviews, applications, standardized test, and numerous other fees. Many doctors graduate medical school hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and all medical students are required to work for two years without any pay at all.

Many doctors work 60 hours per week or more, and it’s not uncommon for specialists to work as many as 80 hours per week. Doctors miss holidays, birthdays, and make numerous other personal sacrifices in order to help other people. If ever there was a group of people who deserve to make a lot of money, it’s doctors.

This, however, won’t matter in the coming years to politicians in the nation’s capital looking to score cheap political points when the ACA’s flaws become even more apparent than they are today.

[Published on Human Events]