How’s that Obamacare preview working out for you?

Massachusetts has its own little system of healthcare, often referred to as Romneycare. Five years into this socialized medicine experiment, here’s what the Massachusetts Medical Society has to say about it.

Alice Coombs, M.D., President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said the survey results point out a critical characteristic of health care in the Commonwealth, one that physicians have known for some time.

“Massachusetts has made great strides in securing insurance coverage for its citizens,” said Dr. Coombs, “but insurance coverage doesn’t equal access to care. We still have much work to do to reduce wait times and widen access. This has important implications for health care cost control, as difficulty or delay with routine access to care leads people to seek other options, such as the emergency room, which is much more costly.”

Dude! I have insurance! True, it’s worth about as much as a Subway Value Card with only one stamp, but still, woo-hoo!

ACCESS TO PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIANS
Access to primary care physicians is becoming more restricted, as more than half of primary care practices – 51% of internists and 53% of family physicians – are not accepting new patients.  These figures remain close to those of last year’s survey which showed 49% of internists and 54% of family physicians not accepting new patients.

Medical Society officials say the percentage of practices closed to new patients reflects the persistent shortages of primary care physicians in the Commonwealth. For five consecutive years, the Medical Society has recorded critical and severe shortages of both internists and family physicians.

Here’s one of my guiding economic principles: People like money. A lot. And they don’t want anybody else either taking their money, or telling them what to do with their money. And if they think too many people are taking too much of their money, or telling them what to do with their money, they’ll leave that situation. It might be by moving to another state, or by leaving one profession for one with less regulations or taxes. So remember: People like money.

WAIT TIMES FOR NEW PATIENTS
Primary Care
Long wait times continue for the primary care physicians of internal medicine and family medicine who are accepting new patients. The average wait time for an appointment for internal medicine is 48 days, five days shorter than last year, and the average wait time for family medicine is 36 days, up 7 days. Internal medicine was the only specialty reporting a shorter wait time, yet at 48 days it has the longest wait time of any of the seven specialties surveyed.

The average wait time for pediatricians – primary care for youngsters up to age 18 – was 24 days, the same as last year. Seventy-three percent of pediatricians are accepting new patients.

The good news? It takes five less days to get an appointment with an internist. The bad news? It still takes 48 days to get that appointment. Want to see your GP? Hope you planned a month+ in advance, because you’ll be waiting 36 days, on average. Oh, and if you have a sick kid, then you’ll ONLY have to wait 24 days.

But no one wants to wait that long for healthcare, so, of course, they go to the emergency room. And ERs are loss leaders, which means hospitals lose more money, which means they can’t hire or retain adequate staff or buy new equipment, which means wait times get longer, which means more people go to the ER, and so on until we’re all dead. BUT! We have insurance.

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