Unhappy Birthday for Obamacare
Doctors are fleeing their profession, and patients like the reform less and less.


John Fund

A glimpse into what bureaucratically controlled medicine will mean in the future comes from Massachusetts, which led the nation back in 2006 in implementing many of the provisions now enshrined in Obamacare. The program was pushed through a Democratic legislature and signed into law by then-governor Mitt Romney. In interviews, Romney has claimed that the state legislature has piled onto health-care providers additional mandates that he never envisioned. The template for these changes, however, was in the bill he signed into law.

The expansion of subsidized medical services to more Massachusetts residents, along with zero growth in the number of physicians available to patients, has produced inevitably unwelcome results. The Massachusetts Medical Society reported last August that only half of the state’s primary-care practices are now accepting new patients, down from 70 percent as recently as 2007. The average waiting time for a new-patient appointment with an internist is 44 days. It now takes an average of 45 days for a new patient to get an appointment with a family doctor.

Michael Murphy, a resident of Cambridge, told the Wall Street Journal in 2011 what the longer waiting times meant for him:

I had a doctor’s appointment which ended up being canceled because my doctor decided to stop practicing medicine in Massachusetts — my second doctor to do so in less than six months. However, his office couldn’t reschedule my appointment with another of their dozens of doctors because none were taking new patients. So instead they asked what prescriptions I needed and had a doctor I’d never met write them for me, and then told me to call back next month to see if any appointments were available. I may have health insurance, but that is not health care.

Skyrocketing insurance premiums, a slowdown in medical innovation, longer waiting times for appointments. Obviously, Obamacare isn’t solely to blame for the long-standing problems with American health care. But it clearly isn’t making matters better. Last week, 33 of the Senate’s 53 Democrats voted to repeal Obamacare’s 2.3 percent tax on medical-device makers, a levy that Senator Al Franken (D., Minn.) complained was hurting U.S. medicine: “The industry is being punished for its innovation and growth.”

If the only people being punished by Obamacare were medical-device manufacturers, we’d be lucky. The truth is, the biggest victims of Obamacare are the vast majority of the American people, and polls show that more and more of them are recognizing that unpleasant reality.

— John Fund is national-affairs columnist for NRO.