In recent years, the United States has faced a growing shortage of physicians.  Under Obamacare, it will only get worse. Industry experts predict a 40,000 shortfall in doctors over the next decade

There are two factors at play here.  First, the existing supply of primary care physicians will not be able to keep up with the increased demand posed by millions of newly-covered patients.  Second, and even more alarming, many physicians feel compelled to voluntarily leave the profession when the bill starts to affect their practices.

Call it a double-edged sword on physician supply.  It creates demand for more physicians as it encourages doctors to leave the profession entirely.  Under Obamacare, physician workload is expected to increase, even as federal health programs cut reimbursement rates for the docs.  “Work more for less” is not a slogan calculated to attract more workers to the field or improve the quality of care.

According to a recent study conducted by Medicus Firm, a physician consulting group, over 29 percent of 1,200 doctors surveyed said that they would leave the medical profession or retire early if Obamacare were enacted.  Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) said they would not recommend their profession in the wake of the new law.

Medicus Managing Director Kevin Perpetua remarked:

The overwhelming prediction from physicians is that health reform, if implemented inappropriately, could create a detrimental combination of circumstances, and result in an environment in which it is not possible for most physicians to continue practicing medicine…Health-care reform and increasing government control of medicine may be the final straw that causes the physician workforce to break down.

A physician shortage will undermine the bill’s entire premise of extending and improving coverage to all Americans.  Shortages hinder patient access to care and can reduce the quality of care given by overextended physicians.

The new health care law extends health coverage to millions… on paper.  But given the law’s disincentives for physicians, patients may find it harder and harder to find doctor.  And those who do may find longer waiting times and much less time with the doctor in the examining room.

For more information on health reforms that won’t create such problems, click here.

Rick Sherwood currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: