Doctors are leaving private practice to become employees of hospitals, according to this story in the New York Times. The decline in private practice physicians actually began a few years ago when changes to Medicare forced many physicians who practiced individually or in small group offices to make the move to a salaried position in a hospital.
But there is no doubt that Obamacare has exacerbated the problem. The onerous recordkeeping is one big reason why private practice physicians are becoming extinct. Private physicians can’t afford the extra employees to meet the demands of Obamacare paperwork.
Dr, Paul Hsieh explained in a PJ Media series we published on the rollout of Obamacare:
The second component of Big Medicine is the shift of doctors away from independent private practice and towards becoming hospital employees. Doctors face many of the same pressures as hospitals. As eWeek reported, “Doctors are abandoning their private practices to join large health organizations so they can lower their costs and meet government mandates on electronic health records.”
By becoming hospital employees, doctors lose autonomy, but enjoy more regular hours and a more predictable salary. In return, hospitals gain access to a guaranteed supply of patients from their employee-physicians. Last year the Washington Post reported, “[T]he number of physicians who own their firms dropped from 57 percent in 2000 to 43 percent in 2009, and it’s projected to continue falling to 33 percent by 2013.” As oncologist Patrick Cobb recently told CNN, “We have a joke that there are two kinds of private practices left in America. Those that sold to hospitals and those that are about to be sold.”
In contrast, the shakeup in health care is towards greater — not lesser — consolidation. This is because the government — not patients — will be increasingly in charge of the money. Under ObamaCare, government is projected to account for a whopping 66% of overall health spending. More centralized control of health spending will inevitably mean more centralized control of health care.
Nor is this centralization of health care some “unintended consequence” of ObamaCare. Rather, it is an explicitly desired goal. In 2010, Obama health advisor Nancy-Ann DeParle wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine that the health law will “accelerate physician employment by hospitals and aggregation into larger physician groups” and that “physicians will need to embrace rather than resist change.”
Whether physicians resist the change or not is beside the point. The precipitous decline of private practice physicians will allow hospitals to jack up their prices — exactly the opposite effect of what the government intended with Obamacare.