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Survey: Physicians unhappy with healthcare reform measures

A national physicians organization says doctors are unhappy with healthcare reform and feel that patient care will suffer as a consequence.

The Physicians Foundation, based in Boston, released the results of a survey conducted by Merritt Hawkins, a national physician search and consulting firm, which indicates growing dissatisfaction among doctors as they struggled with less time for patient care and increased time dealing with non-clinical paperwork, difficulty receiving reimbursement and burdensome government regulations.

According to the survey, healthcare reform could intensify existing problems for doctors and worsen the shortage of primary care doctors, making it more difficult for patients to access quality care.

"Physicians support reform; in fact, we were the ones leading the fight against the status quo. But this new research shows that doctors strongly believe the law is not working like it needs to – for them, or for their patients," said Lou Goodman, PhD, president of the Physicians Foundation. "For any healthcare reform effort to be successful, it must include the viewpoint of our nation's doctors. Their perspective from the front lines of patient care is critical in determining what's broken in our system and how we can fix it."

According to the survey, physicians feel that Medicare's Sustainable Growth Rate formula has as much impact on their practices as healthcare reform. Proposed cuts to Medicare reimbursements, repeatedly delayed by Congress, will reach approximately 30 percent by next year if not addressed.

"Despite the high-profile nature of the health reform discussion, physicians are equally concerned over the impact of SGR on their practices," said Walker Ray, MD, chairman of the research committee. "The fact that SGR was not addressed as part of this year's reform effort shows that we don't have a comprehensive solution yet, and also that doctors simply didn't have a voice at the table during the reform debate. That needs to change."

According to the study:

  • 60 percent of physicians said health reform will compel them to close or significantly restrict their practices to certain categories of patients. Of these, 93 percent said they would be forced to close or significantly restrict their practices to Medicaid patients, while 87 percent said they would be forced to close or significantly restrict their practices to Medicare patients.
  • 40 percent of physicians said they would drop out of patient care in the next one to three years, either by retiring, seeking a non-clinical job within healthcare or seeking a job out of healthcare.
  • 59 percent of physicians said health reform will cause them to spend less time with patients.
  • More than half of physicians said health reform will cause patient volumes in their practices to increase, while 69 percent said they no longer have the time or resources to see additional patients while maintaining quality of care.
  • 67 percent of physicians said their initial reaction to passage of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was either "somewhat negative" or "very negative," and 86 percent believe the views of physicians were not adequately represented to policy makers prior to passage of the law.
  • Physicians are almost evenly divided over the relative importance of SGR (36 percent) and health reform (34 percent) to their practices, while 30 percent are unsure which will have the greatest impact.