Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why Doctors Believe Health Care Will Deteriorate under “Reform”

The consulting firm Thomson Reuters is out with a new survey of nearly 3,000 physicians regarding their views on the impact of the health care law; a summary is available here.  The results are clear:

  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) believe the quality of American health care will deteriorate over the next five years, compared to only 18% who believe that health care will improve as the new law takes effect;
  • More than three in four (78%) believe the health care law will have a negative impact on physicians, compared to fewer than one in ten (8%) who view its enactment as positive; and
  • Nearly three in five (58%) believe the law will have an overall negative impact on patients, compared to only 27% who believe its effects will be largely positive.

Why might physicians be so uniformly concerned by the impact of the new 2,700-page health care law, and government’s encroaching intrusions into the health care of all Americans?  An article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal regarding a new potential test for Alzheimer’s disease sparked the following reaction from bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration: “FDA reviewers questioned whether there’s any real world use for such a test in a disease that has no cure.”  In other words, there’s no value in individuals (to say nothing of their families) knowing they may be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, so why bother developing the test in the first place?

Sadly, such views are not uncommon within the Administration.  The controversial head of Medicare, Donald Berwick, famously stated that “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care—the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.”  And even President Obama himself called for a “difficult democratic conversation” about what he perceived as too much spending on care in the last months of life.

Therein lies one of the main reasons why physicians so strongly believe the health care law will harm, not help, American patients and the health care system as a whole.  With more federal involvement comes more federal micro-management – government officials like those at FDA intervening between doctors and patients.  It’s the difference between physicians actively working to cure their patients – the audacity of hope – and Washington bureaucrats using cost considerations to deny care – the “audacity of nope.”