Only seems fair to start haggling over this asanine bummer of an idea...again!
This Doctor has a question for the self-annointed-one.
Obama writes checks the medical community can't cash
As you know, I am no fan of socialized medicine. Of course, President Obama is -- he's a big fan of any excuse to get the government poking its nose into peoples' business. But it turns out there's a major hitch to Obama's goal of massive healthcare reforms: there aren't enough doctors to provide the massive amount of health care the president is promising.
It's a wonderful irony: more and more of our best and brightest have been deliberately steering clear of medical careers because it's too much of a hassle. Time was when there were 50 applications for every open spot in medical school. The Annals of Internal Medicine reported that there will be a shortage of 200,000 doctors in the U.S. in the next 20 years. But the health care manpower crisis may have already arrived.
Federal officials are already unnerved by the shortage, and are scrambling for ways to boost the number of physicians. In the Obama administration's view, there are millions of uninsured who are already lining up for the "free" health care provided by the president's promised legislation. The light is finally going on that these new medical demands cannot possibly be met with the current population of doctors in the U.S.
"We're not producing enough primary-care physicians," Obama said at a recent White House health care forum. "The costs of medical education are so high that people feel they've got to specialize."
This is a half-truth. It's true that America has a downturn in primary care docs, but it's not just because of the cost of getting a med school education. Sorry, Mr. President. I know that this little jab at U.S. education costs dovetails nicely with your Let-Taxes-Pay- For-Everything worldview. But the reality is, there are fewer doctors because bright kids realize that there is very little financial reward to medicine.
Think about it: would-be doctors face 12 or more years of study, at a tremendous cost (med school loans can tally as much as $140K)... only to face ungrateful patients who sue, and the resulting huge malpractice insurance costs. And don't forget that docs are routinely persecuted by county, state, and federal boards for not toeing the line on the type of medicine they practice.
Obama correctly points out that more medical students are pursuing the more lucrative path of medical specialties. According to Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), "Primary-care physicians are grossly underpaid compared with many specialists."
In the face of the shortage, Obama and his team have cooked up some possible fixes -- all of which come with their own problems.
One idea is to boost the amount of Medicare payments to primary care doctors - a proposal that has sparked rage among medical specialists who (correctly) claim that this picks their collective pockets.
What's more, this will only serve to increase the amount of medical costs that Obama himself has pledged to help tamp down.
Other proposals include increasing enrollment in med schools... but no one is suggesting exactly how to do this. The government quick fix for this could be similar to affirmative action policies of the 1960s and 1970s,which sought to boost the enrollment of African-Americans in U.S. colleges by mandating lower academic standards. At the college level, this is just plain wrong. At the med school level, it's downright dangerous.
Is it really going to do anyone much good if we can say we have an adequate number of doctors if they're less talented?
Some are saying we should spread out the existing supply of doctors by increasing the use of physician's assistants and nurse practitioners. With all due respect to those who happen to be nurse practitioners or physicians assistants: they are not doctors. The schooling to become qualified as one of these professions is certainly difficult, but falls far short of an M.D. This "solution" won't really solve anything -- there will still be an inadequate number of legitimately qualified physicians.
Obama seems to think that community health clinics could solve the problem, and has been allocating untold millions to these facilities. But the truth is, these clinics are not immune to the doctor shortage, and they too are having a difficult time finding staff.
It's going to become more and more obvious to those in this administration and the American people that Obama cannot merely wave his Hope-and-Change wand and make real-world problems disappear.
If Obama wants his plan to work, he'll need more doctors. And more doctors mean that his health care proposals can only be realized at an astronomical cost to the American taxpayer. Sadly, Obama has not yet let astronomical costs get in the way of his overhaul of the American way of life.
Never short on my supply of the truth,
William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.