William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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AN OBAMACARE PROBLEM SURFACES – We want everyone to get adequate medical care.  I think it's part of our life-affirming Judeo-Christian ethic.  But when Obamacare passed, medical experts warned that we simply do not have enough doctors to meet the requirements of the new law.  Liberal proponents scoffed, as they always do.  Why bother with reality when we can feel so good about ourselves?  Now, though, the warning is proving correct, at least in Florida.  Other states are forewarned:

TALLAHASSEE Brace yourself for longer lines at the doctor's office.

Whether you're employed and insured, elderly and on Medicare, or poor and covered by Medicaid, the Florida Medical Association says there's a growing shortage of doctors — especially specialists — available to provide you with medical care.

And if the Florida Legislature goes along with Gov. Rick Scott's recommendation to offer Medicaid coverage to an additional 1 million Floridians — part of the AffordableCare Act that takes effect next January — the FMA says that shortage will only get worse.

Florida needs more doctors and it needs more nurses, and it needs them working together in teams," said Rebecca O'Hara, a lobbyist for the FMA.

About 15 million Floridians have health insurance today, and Obamacare, which requires most adults to have coverage by January, could add as many as 2.5 million more. One million would come through a potential expansion of the federal-state Medicaid program that Scott announced this week he was backing. The others would be the result of new mandates requiring employers and individuals to have insurance or be fined.

Currently, the state has 44,804 doctors, but about 5,600 of them are expected to retire in the next five years. And even though Florida has opened three new medical schools in the past dozen years, the state isn't producing as many doctors as it needs. Scott's budget this year has $80 million to fund programs to train 700 new residents a year, in hopes they'll remain in the state.

COMMENT:  It wasn't our health-care system that needed overhauling, it was our health insurance system that required work.  But I fear that Obamacare is so ruthless in its construction that it will adversely affect medical care itself, and turn us into Britain.  I don't think that bothers the Obamans, though, who are in love with all the socialist gimmicks on the other side of the Atlantic, no matter how bad they might be.

One possible consequence of Obamacare is that it can drive young people away from the profession of medicine, which can become a bureaucratic nightmare.

Obamacare will be fully implemented by next year.  There are provisions that are good, and remove the historic unfairness of some private insurance plans, such as denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.  But we'll have to wait to evaluate the whole program and see what needs to be scrapped or changed.  I suspect the list will be fairly long.

February 25, 2013