LocumTenens.com Says Universal Healthcare Could Vacate Key Physician Jobs


9/18/2008 12:00:00 AM


LocumTenens.com Says Universal Healthcare Could Vacate Key Physician Jobs Physician Survey Results Indicate Males and Females View Healthcare Reform Differently

ALPHARETTA, GA, September 18, 2008 Physician jobs and universal healthcare might not mix well, physician recruitment firm LocumTenens.com reports.

Physician survey results published earlier this year indicate that as much as 20 percent of the country's physician work force will stop practicing medicine if the U.S. implements universal healthcare under the new president. While a potential 20-percent reduction in the number of practicing U.S. physicians might not seem catastrophic, the likely composition of that 20 percent has serious implications for both the surgical suite and the nation's aging baby boomers.

"Additional analysis of the 1,400 responses to our healthcare reform survey indicated that the vast majority of physicians who said they would leave medicine if the new president implements universal healthcare were anesthesiologists, surgeons or radiologists," LocumTenens.com Senior Vice President Pamela McKemie said. "These specialists are already in short supply in many areas and we think vacancies in physician jobs definitely would increase under universal healthcare."

Further segmentation of LocumTenens.com's physician survey respondents divides them into two distinct clusters-one skeptical about physicians' ability to make a decent living under universal healthcare (44 percent of respondents) and the second more concerned about ensuring that people who need access to healthcare get it, so they tend to embrace universal healthcare (56% of responding physicians).

Not surprisingly, the first cluster includes 98 percent of respondents who said they would change occupations, 87 percent of respondents who said they would retire, and 90 percent of respondents who said they would change to fee-for-services practice if universal healthcare were enacted.

Who'll Staff the Surgical Suite?

The potential drain on U.S. surgical suites emerges in the fact that physicians in this first cluster are more likely:

  • To be men
  • To specialize in anesthesiology, surgery or radiology
  • To say that none of the presidential candidates offers a good solution to healthcare reform OR to support John McCain
  • To say that the biggest problem areas in U.S. healthcare today are administrative, non-clinical cost; government regulation; physician reimbursement; tort reform or regulation of insurance companies

As the "silver tsunami" of retiring baby boomers breaks land over the next decade or so, surgical demand is expected to surge. A 2003 study published in the Annals of Surgery predicted a 14-percent increase in surgery volume by 2010 and a 47-percent increase by 2020. Based data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the American Hospital Association recently reported that knee replacement surgery increased 65 percent and hip replacement surgery increased 21 percent between 2000 and 2006.

Will Female Physicians Save the Day?

With much evidence of a growing primary care doctor shortage in the U.S., here's the good news from the LocumTenens.com physician survey respondents analysis. The more-than-half of respondents (56%) in the second physician respondent group are more likely:

  • To be women
  • To specialize in psychiatry, family practice, pediatrics or emergency medicine
  • To support Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama (study conducted before Clinton dropped out of the race)
  • To say their physician jobs would continue like they function today under universal healthcare

To say the most pressing issues for today's U.S. healthcare system to address are equal access to healthcare services for all, disease prevention, general public education about staying healthy, or quality of patient care

It's interesting to note there was no significant clustering of responses to our healthcare reform survey questions by age group. However, 73% of respondents reported being in the age range between 35 and 65, with 37% of them age 35 to 50 and 36% age 51 to 65.

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