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Two of every three practicing physicians oppose the medical overhaul plan under consideration in Washington, and hundreds of thousands would think about shutting down their practices or retiring early if it were adopted, a new IBD/TIPP Poll has found.
The poll contradicts the claims of not only the White House, but also doctors' own lobby — the powerful American Medical Association — both of which suggest the medical profession is behind the proposed overhaul.
It also calls into question whether an overhaul is even doable; 72% of the doctors polled disagree with the administration's claim that the government can cover 47 million more people with better-quality care at lower cost.
The IBD/TIPP Poll was conducted by mail the past two weeks, with 1,376 practicing physicians chosen randomly throughout the country taking part.
• Two-thirds, or 65%, of doctors say they oppose the proposed government expansion plan. This contradicts the administration's claims that doctors are part of an "unprecedented coalition" supporting a medical overhaul.
It also differs with findings of a poll released Monday by National Public Radio that suggests a "majority of physicians want public and private insurance options," and clashes with media reports such as Tuesday's front-page story in the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Doctors Go For Obama's Reform."
Nowhere in the Times story does it say doctors as a whole back the overhaul. It says only that the AMA — the "association representing the nation's physicians" and what "many still regard as the country's premier lobbying force" — is "lobbying and advertising to win public support for President Obama's sweeping plan."
The AMA, in fact, represents approximately 18% of physicians and has been hit with a number of defections by members opposed to the AMA's support of Democrats' proposed health care overhaul.
• Four of nine doctors, or 45%, said they "would consider leaving their practice or taking an early retirement" if Congress passes the plan the Democratic majority and White House have in mind. More than 800,000 doctors were practicing in 2006, the government says. Projecting the poll's finding onto that population, 360,000 doctors would consider quitting.
View larger image • More than seven in 10 doctors, or 71% — the most lopsided response in the poll — answered "no" when asked if they believed "the government can cover 47 million more people and that it will cost less money and the quality of care will be better."
Adding millions of patients to physicians' caseloads would threaten to overwhelm the system. Medical gatekeepers would have to deny care to large numbers of people. That means care would have to be rationed.
Hope for a surge in new doctors may be misplaced. A recent study from the Association of American Medical Colleges found steadily declining enrollment in medical schools since 1980.
The study found that, just with current patient demand, the U.S. will have 159,000 fewer doctors than it needs by 2025. Unless corrected, that would make some sort of medical rationing or long waiting lists almost mandatory.
• The primary care specialties of family medicine and internal medicine are in short supply for a fourth straight year.
• Seven of 18 specialties — dermatology, neurology, urology, vascular surgery and (for the first time) obstetrics-gynecology, in addition to family and internal medicine — are in short supply.
A key reason for the doctor shortages, according to the study, is a "lingering poor practice environment in the state."
British doctors, demoralized by long hours and burdensome rules, simply refuse to see patients at nights and weekends. Likewise, Canadian physicians who have to deal with the stringent rules and income limits imposed by that country's national health plan have emigrated in droves to other countries, including the U.S.