Why Obama Would Be Good for Doctors

Harris Meyer

Disclosures

October 25, 2012

In This Article

Taking Care of Ill Patients

Many pro-Obama physicians were appalled at Romney's recent comments that uninsured Americans can always get care in the hospital emergency room and that "we don't have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don't have insurance."

"It's really hard to take care of patients when they can't afford their pills or their treatment plan; they delay care until they have to go to the ER, and they skip doctor visits," Dr. Motta says. "All of that is directly attributable to the fact that they don't have insurance. We've pretty much solved that in Massachusetts."

He leans toward Obama but appreciates the Massachusetts coverage expansion law that Romney as governor helped pass, which was the model for the ACA. He's greatly disappointed that Romney has distanced himself from the Massachusetts reform model.

"The president's health plan is certainly better for doctors than having 72 million people without health insurance," agrees Rep. Jim McDermott, MD (D-Wash), a psychiatrist who represents the Seattle area and is a longtime sponsor of Medicare-for-all legislation. "It makes it possible for another 30 million people to have insurance and get preventive care. Doctors don't want to just treat catastrophes; they want to help people be well. That's a major step forward. Romney's alternative is a disaster."

Controlling Costs vs Free Market

Doctors who back Obama believe that the president's regulated-market reform model stands a better chance of controlling costs and preserving smaller physician practices than Romney's deregulated, free-market approach. They note that under the current competitive system, large hospital systems and insurers already are squeezing out independent doctors. And they contend that healthcare can never be a normal market because people don't have enough information to shop for plans and providers, and sick people aren't in a position to shop around.

Obama's reform law establishes a regulated competition system for private insurers who, starting in 2014, will sell standardized benefit plans to individuals and small groups through new state health insurance exchanges. Insurers will have to accept all applicants regardless of preexisting conditions, with limited price variations based on age. In contrast, Romney wants to encourage more insurers to compete and offer a wide range of benefit packages, without having to meet state benefit mandates or accept applicants who haven't had continuous coverage.

"The insurance exchange is good for doctors because then you've got a couple of health plans people will buy, and that cuts down on doctors' back-office work," Dr. McDermott says. "It's a big drag on your office to have to take care of 25 different insurance firms and have all this paperwork. Doctors just want to take care of their patients and get paid."

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