A disaster looms for U.S. health care: WaPo reports that an alarming number of doctors say they are fed-up, stressed out, overworked, and micro-managed in their primary care practices. The result? By 2020 the U.S. medical system will have 45,000 fewer primary-care doctors than we need, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Some doctors are retiring altogether, while others are taking jobs at hospitals:
A 2012 Urban Institute study of 500 primary-care doctors found that 30 percent of those aged 35 to 49 planned to leave their practices within five years. The rate jumped to 52 percent for those over 50. [...]
A RAND study for the American Medical Association last year found that nearly half of surveyed physicians called their jobs “extremely stressful” and more than a quarter said they were either “burning out,” experiencing burnout symptoms “that won’t go away” or “completely burned out” and wondering if they “can go on.”
Some of these doctors will land in hospitals and thus remain in the medical system, but consumers will still be worse off. For one thing, hospitals charge more per procedure than other care providers. In addition, as they gain more doctors, hospitals will acquire more market power, thus making it even harder than it already is for insurance companies to negotiate cheaper prices for their customers.
The doctor shortage is one of those seemingly small, pesky details Obamacare largely ignored (or even made worse). But it is becoming the next big challenge for serious reformers.