THE trillion-dollar medical industry in America rests on the shoulders of 834,769 men and women. That's the number of active physicians in the United States, says the Kaiser Family Foundation.
But the switch to third-party payments — health insurance — over the decades has gradually eroded the patient-physician relationship as doctors must fill out forms and spend less time with their patients.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will make things even worse with its various new requirements, Dr. Marc Siegel wrote in a column in the Wall Street Journal. Siegel is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at New York University's Langone Medical Center. He also is a Fox News contributor.
He wrote of treating three recent patients: one for depression, one for Lyme disease and one for asthma.
"Each problem had an effective treatment but each visit took over half an hour to carefully complete. The appointments were gratifying, in an old-fashioned way. Patients still have the expectation that their doctor will be patient and listen carefully, but one by one doctors and patients are awakening from that comforting vision of the past to the rushed, restricted world of the Obamacare future," Siegel wrote.
And who wants to be the doctor in that rushed, restricted world? The Association of American Medical Colleges already predicts a shortfall of 91,500 physicians in the next seven years.
Under Obamacare, doctor visits will be even more assembly-line style and with even less face time as doctors have to update the electronic records during the visit.
This impersonalization is a feature of the health insurance method of payment for medical care. Everything is just a number: the patient, the doctor, the procedure. Obamacare simply takes an already heavily flawed system — that of medical insurance — and makes it mandatory. A single-payer system would be even less personal.
The way to reduce health expenses and improve care might be to go back to the old system of paying the doctor directly and having insurance pay for the big things.