November 26 2012
ObamaCare’s Casualties Mount
Carrie L. Lukas
America’s may just want to forget about politics, and everything that’s happening in Washington. Yet sadly, Washington won’t leave the rest of the country alone, and the effects of policy decisions made in DC reverberate around the country.
Here’s a couple stories you might have missed about the ObamaCare law’s mounting impact.
Start with the news of yet another business—this time, a community college in Pennsylvania—that’s cutting workers’ hours to reduce their number of full-time employees:
Pennsylvania's Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) is slashing the hours of 400 adjunct instructors, support staff, and part-time instructors to dodge paying for Obamacare.
"It's kind of a double whammy for us because we are facing a legal requirement [under the new law] to get health care and if the college is reducing our hours, we don't have the money to pay for it," said adjunct biology professor Adam Davis.
On Tuesday, CCAC employees were notified that Obamacare defines full-time employees as those working 30 hours or more per week and that on Dec. 31 temporary part-time employees will be cut back to 25 hours. The move will save an estimated $6 million.
Americans have recently heard such reports of workforce cutbacks in the food industry. Yet Americans should be warned that no industry is likely to be spared from these kinds of calculations. Businesses will be facing higher insurance costs as a result of ObamaCare and that money has to be made up for elsewhere, by fewer workers, lower wages, or higher prices. You can expect such stories of worker cutbacks to be routine as ObamaCare kicks in.
Doctors are also having to make adjustments—and unpleasant ones—due to ObamaCare. This story in Bloomberg details how private practices are being swallowed up by big hospitals due to counterproductive, arbitrary government payment practices, which end up reimbursing hospitals more (sometimes as much as 3 times more) than private practices for doing the same procedures.
The article starts with the story of a heart doctor, faced with the choice of firing half of his staff and trying to keep his practice going or selling to a hospital. He sold to the hospital, of course. This is more than just a single anecdote; it is emblematic of a larger trend. As Bloomberg reports:
In Wisconsin, the number of heart doctors in private practice has declined to 11 percent from 62 percent of cardiologists in 2007, according to the American College of Cardiology, whose main offices are in Washington. The trend is similar nationwide. The number of heart doctors working for U.S. hospitals has more than tripled, while the number in private practice has fallen 23 percent over five years, the ACC said.
Is this really what Americans want? To have to go to the hospital for more of their health care and to access any specialists? There’s the cost side of the equation, though it’s worth lingering on how stupid this is from a cost-perspective:
“If this was government’s solution to reducing health-care costs they should have their heads examined because it is probably increasing health-care costs,” Alexander (a cardiologist who sold his practice to a hospital) said. “This is an unfortunate consequence of bad planning.”
The cuts he faced, though, didn’t apply to hospitals, which saw Medicare reimbursements rise over the same period under a different set of government formulas, according to ACC. After selling his practice to a hospital in 2010, Medicare now pays Alexander three times as much for doing the same tests and procedures he did in private practice.
So our health care costs will rise as more Americans are forced into the hospital system instead of seeing local doctors. Those costs are likely to get even worse as hospitals begin to enjoy near monopoly status and can boost prices for those with private insurance.
But Americans should also consider what this means for their experience of getting care. My obstetrician for my last pregnancy had his office in a hospital here in Belgium. That meant that for every routine checkup I had to park in a huge hospital parking lot and walk more than a block to get inside. I then had to wait in a long line to check in at the hospital, take my badge over to pay, and wind my way through the hospital to the wing where my doctor has his office. I then had to wait again in another line to check in there, before sitting in a giant waiting room until I was seen. It’s a reason that I didn’t bother with the after-birth checkup: Dealing with the hospital was a giant hassle.
This will be our brave new world America. Good-bye doctor offices; hello DMV-style medical care.
Americans may want to tune out politics, but we’ve can’t ignore the real impact of these policy.