STUDY: Wait Times to See a Doctor Have Increased Under the Affordable Care Act
It’s safe to say that every American seeking medical attention and an appointment with their physician of choice prefers to wait for as little time as possible. Unfortunately, a recent study finds the Affordable Care Act is exacerbating a twofold problem that already exists in our country: a physician shortage and increasing wait times. The study’s conclusion notes:
The survey was conducted during a period of historic change in the healthcare delivery system in which health reform is anticipated to greatly increase the number of people with access to health insurance.
However, as the example of Boston illustrates, access to health insurance does not always guarantee access to a physician.
Boston was found to be the metropolitan health care market, of the 15 this study observed, with the highest wait times, at 45.4 days. Boston is also the capital of the state President Obama considered the model for healthcare and for his signature health care law. The study also found Boston has the highest rate of Medicaid and Medicare acceptance by physicians in the 15 markets surveyed at 73 percent and 98 percent respectively. But as the study also stated:
Long wait times in Boston may be driven in part by the healthcare reform initiative that was put in place in Massachusetts in 2006. The initiative succeeded in covering the great majority of the state’s residents. However, it has been reported in the years since that many patients in Massachusetts are encountering difficulty in accessing physicians.
In light of the findings of this study, lawmakers should consider legislation that encourages more individuals to enter professions as physicians and remain in practice, thereby reducing the time Americans have to wait to see a doctor.
One means of making the medical profession more attractive is to address and remedy the litigious nature of healthcare in America:
With studies indicating that America faces a doctor shortage in future years, policymakers should focus on removing barriers that discourage institutions from assisting those who need health care. Regrettably, America’s litigious culture has resulted in the widespread practice of defensive medicine by doctors and other health practitioners. In response, some states have changed their medical liability laws to discourage frivolous lawsuits, prompting doctors to move to those states to practice medicine. Were other states to adopt such reforms, this would encourage doctors—a majority of whom believe the practice of medicine is in jeopardy —to remain in practice and would encourage students to join the profession.
America needs a patient-centered, market-based healthcare system, and one that is good for doctors as well, because such a health care system would mean a healthier America overall. The Heritage Foundation predicted these problems in 2010, in a post entitled, “Side Effects: Get Ready to Wait for Your Health Care.” Even then, they promoted patient-centered, market-based reforms, which we still need today.