Recently on “Meet the Press,” Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney raised eyebrows when he promised to keep portions of President Obama’s health care law in place if elected. The two candidates will no doubt spar over how they’ll deal with health reform in the debates, which kick off this month.
One group that will be anxiously watching is medical students — who have identified themselves as ObamaCare’s top cheerleaders. Roughly 80% of medical students support ObamaCare, according to a survey of 1,032 at 10 medical schools across the country published in the science journal PLOS ONE.
Their support for the law makes little sense, as ObamaCare stands to make their chosen career path much less stable.
How can medical students be so out of step with practicing doctors, 44% think ObamaCare represents a step in the wrong direction? Or with the American people, a slight majority of whom — just over 50% — favors repealing the law and has since 2010?
It might be because the doctors in training don’t know what’s in the law. Almost a third admitted they didn’t understand the legislation’s major provisions.
Medical students are also typically subjected to just one health policy viewpoint in their studies — and it’s the pro-government one championed by ObamaCare. The American Association of Medical Colleges supported the president’s reform package.
The newly-formed Benjamin Rush Society, a free-market organization of medical students that organizes health policy debates on medical-school campuses, could provide a counterpoint to the schools’ pro-ObamaCare bias.
Nearly half of the medical students surveyed were not sure whether ObamaCare would improve the quality of health care — or whether it would lower health costs. Today’s practising doctors are skeptical that the law will accomplish either objective.
Take quality of care. Forty-nine percent of doctors under the age of 40 report that ObamaCare will negatively impact their practices, according to a Physicians Foundation survey. Fifty-seven percent are not optimistic about the future of health care under the law.
These recent graduates of medical school are witnessing the law’s downsides firsthand. That’s because ObamaCare takes power away from doctors and hands it to the federal government. As a result, care will eventually be rationed.
The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) offers a prime example of how. ObamaCare created this board of 15 unelected bureaucrats to make binding recommendations on how to cut spending on the program. No one has yet been appointed to IPAB — and it will likely remain that way through the presidential election.
The board can’t make any changes to Medicare’s fee-for-service structure or adjust the benefits seniors receive. That leaves two options for bringing Medicare’s costs into balance. IPAB could cut payments to doctors — or Congress could raise taxes.
Reimbursements for doctors are already low. Doctors receive 20% less from the government than they do from private patients. In the future, medical students may have to decide between operating their practices at a loss or turning away sick Medicare patients.
ObamaCare won’t reduce the cost of health care, either. The law will require everyone to buy generous health insurance policies with deductibles below $2,000 by 2014. Of course, policies with low deductibles and numerous benefits are more expensive than those with high deductibles and fewer benefits.
Hence, people will pay more for insurance. This year, the average employer-based family plan will cost $20,728 — nearly 7% more than last year, according to the consulting firm Milliman.
ObamaCare will also force insurers to cover everyone regardless of pre-existing conditions or health status — and to charge them similar rates.
The old may be charged no more than three times what the young pay and smokers’ premiums may be no more than 1.5 times those of non-smokers.
Expanding access to coverage is important. But ObamaCare does so in the most expensive way possible. Young, healthy Americans will have to buy more coverage than they need. And premiums for everyone will jump to levels that only the highest-risk patients previously faced.
All these mandates will further remove patients from the cost of the care they receive —and exacerbate our health care system’s cost crisis.
It’s no wonder, then, that America’s health expenditures will be $311 billion more through 2020 than they would’ve been without ObamaCare, according to Medicare’s chief actuary.
America’s future doctors know better than anyone else that our health care system needs reform. Everyone wants affordable, accessible, quality care. But ObamaCare will not solve our system’s problems. It will make them worse. Sadly, medical students will soon experience that firsthand.
• Pipes is president, CEO and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is “The Pipes Plan: The Top Ten Ways to Dismantle and Replace ObamaCare” (Regnery 2012).
Investor’s Business Daily
October 2, 2012
SALLY C. PIPES
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