Allysia Finley writes for the Wall Street Journal:
In his campaign for health-care reform, President Obama has repeatedly harped about a primary care doctor shortage. “The status quo is we don’t have enough primary care physicians,” President Obama said in an ABC interview in July. The president promises that his health-care reform proposal will address the problem of a primary care physician shortage—and he’s right. He will make it worse.
Because Massachusetts’ Commonwealth system served as the model for the universal coverage Mr. Obama wants to implement nationwide, a few results of its health-care experiment are worth noting. A 2008 Physician Workforce Study by the Massachusetts Medical Society found that the percentage of residents having difficulty getting care rose to 24% from 16% between 2007 and 2008. Since 2006 when the Commonwealth system was implemented, internal medicine and family practice went from having labor market conditions that were considered “soft” or unstressed to being the only two specialties with labor market conditions classified as “severe” or experiencing the highest possible degree of stress.
And with 33% of the state’s primary care doctors now considering changing professions due to dissatisfaction with the current practice environment—an increase of 8% in the last year—Massachusetts’ problems are just beginning. Because of physicians’ overbearing work loads and a massive administrative bureaucracy, Massachusetts is struggling to recruit and retain doctors. About three-quarters of medical group directors say that their ability to retain physicians has become more difficult in the last three years. Over half of the state’s resident physicians choose to practice elsewhere.
Extrapolate the Massachusetts problem to the whole country, and you’ll get this, Finley points out: “The U.S. is facing a John Galt-like protest from doctors. The Obama administration may soon be wondering: who is John Galt?”