Most U.S. doctors believe that healthcare reform will increase use of public health insurance programs but will not reduce costs, according to results from a survey of 500 physicians by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.
A total of 85% of respondents said they felt that enrollment in Medicare and Medicaid would increase as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but just 27% said they thought the law would decrease healthcare costs.
In addition, most of the survey respondents said they believe that healthcare reform will hurt their incomes and are pessimistic about the future of the medical profession.
For its report, the center surveyed a nationally representative random sample of U.S. physicians from the American Medical Association’s Master File about their attitudes toward the ACA and how they think the law will impact the practice of medicine.
Deloitte mailed 16,500 physicians letters inviting them to participate and offering an incentive after the 30-minute online survey was completed. About 3% completed the survey.
A total of 60% of respondents gave the U.S. healthcare system a grade of “C” or “D” overall, but they were split over whether the ACA is the way to fix the system (about 44% said the law is a good start, while another 44% said it’s a step in the wrong direction, and 12% said they weren’t sure).
When asked about what is the main factor driving up healthcare costs, most doctors pegged “unhealthy lifestyles” of patients as the main culprit, followed by the fear of lawsuits leading to physicians practicing defensive medicine, followed by insurance company costs, hospital costs, and the cost of prescription drugs.
In terms of what changes the ACA likely would bring, physicians responded that in addition to increasing enrollment in Medicare and Medicaid, the law will mean that more people will seek care in emergency rooms because there won’t be enough primary care physicians to treat newly insured patients.
The report also found that most physicians support tort reform. More than three-quarters of doctors surveyed said they’d support a separate court system to settle medical liability lawsuits, and 74% said they support caps on the amount of damages that could be awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
On the topic of salary, specialists said their pay should be 30% higher than what primary care specialists are paid, but primary care physicians don’t think the pay difference should be that much.
Most doctors expect their incomes to stay flat or decrease in the upcoming year, the survey found.
Doctors don’t have a rosy view of the future of medicine: seven out of 10 surveyed said they think healthcare reform will make potential doctors reconsider entering the field of medicine.