Scott W. Atlas, M.D., Forbes Contributor
10/11/2012 @ 8:57AM
“What’s most telling is that some of the people who are most supportive of reform are the very medical professionals who know the health care system best.” Barack Obama, October 5, 2009.
We all remember the highly publicized Rose Garden ceremony of smiling doctors in their white coats standing alongside a glowing President Obama (“you look very spiffy in your coats,” he approvingly noted) in his attempt to validate his Affordability Care Act to the public before its details were even exposed to public scrutiny.
And we also recall when the AMA endorsed ObamaCare at its inception, an endorsement that led many Americans to believe America’s doctors supported the dramatic changes to the U.S. health care system.
The problem is that, unbeknownst to the public and the press, the AMA represents only about one fourth of the nation’s doctors.
Meanwhile, contrary to those doctors selected to legitimize ObamaCare in the staged media event (where the White House actually handed out white lab coats to generate the image of official credibility), an overwhelming 70 percent of doctors said, even back in 2011, that they disagreed with the AMA’s position on health reform, while only 13 percent agreed with it. In fact, almost half of doctors in that survey even went so far as to say that the AMA stance on ObamaCare was the factor causing them to drop AMA membership.
What has happened to the opinion of doctors, now that ObamaCare has been examined in detail?
Moving the clock forward to this year, thousands of the nation’s doctors from all across the country engaged in the full spectrum of clinical practice have had the chance to digest the content of ObamaCare and to see the early impact of the law. Without the filtering by the president’s staff, and after far more exposure of the details in the ACA, the nation’s doctors have twice expressed their views about ObamaCare.
This past February, 60 percent of more than 5,000 doctors surveyed said the Obama health law would have a negative impact on patient care, while only 22 percent thought it would be positive. And more than half thought it would have a negative impact on their relationships with patients, while only 11 percent thought the doctor-patient relationship would be better. A startling 43 percent said the health care reform itself would likely lead them to retire over the next 5 years, and only 37 percent said that was an unlikely consequence of this law. It is worth repeating that sentiment to understand the impact of ObamaCare – it is viewed as being so destructive that almost half of doctors said they would “likely” soon retire directly because of the law itself.
Why do America’s doctors overwhelmingly disagree with the changes to U.S. health care by ObamaCare?
Perhaps America’s doctors, those who actually have experience and knowledge about how American health care functions, realize how ObamaCare would dumb down its excellence, shackle doctors, and restrict access to care for patients, while transforming health care toward the centralized bureaucracies of Western Europe or Canada.
Perhaps America’s doctors see the repeated behind-the-scenes maneuvers by our political leaders in the US, frankly by some of the strongest advocates for more government control of US health care when they or their families are sick. Like when President Obama, an on-the-record supporter of single- payer systems (“I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program”on June 30, 2003), was asked pointedly in 2009 to promise that he would not seek out-of-plan help for his wife or daughters if they became sick and the public plan he was then proposing limited their options, the president refused, and instead replied, “If it’s my family member, if it’s my wife, if it’s my children, if it’s my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care.” Time and time again, these same outspoken advocates of nationalized health systems for the rest of us, like the late Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, have exercised their personal freedoms unique to our system for the latest diagnostic tests, the most sophisticated surgical techniques, the most innovative medical therapies, the newest drugs, and the best doctors in the world – right here, in America, where those choices were uniquely available – when confronted with their own personal illnesses.
At the time, President Obama appeared thoughtful and logical back in 2009, when he assured our nation that America’s doctors, the experts in medical care, the doctors who supply the vast majority of innovation and the training for most of the world in health care advances, supported his radical transformation of American health care. After all, he said they “would not be supporting health insurance reform if they really believed that it would lead to government bureaucrats making decisions that are best left to doctors.” But in retrospect, maybe he should have actually listened, instead of passing out more white coats for the willing few.
Scott W. Atlas, MD is the David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author of the recently published book In Excellent Health: Setting the Record Straight on America’s Health Care (Hoover Press, 2011).