WV Center on Budget and Policy > Blog > Affordable Care Act > Is Obamacare Forcing West Virginia Doctors Out of Practice?

Is Obamacare Forcing West Virginia Doctors Out of Practice?

An article in yesterday’s Wheeling Intelligencer claims that a Northern Panhandle pediatrician is being forced to retire because of the costs of Obamacare.  It makes for a great headline for opponents of the Affordable Care Act, but is it true?  In short, no, at least not for the reason cited.

Dr. Ventosa’s primary claim is that he will have to computerize his patient records under the ACA, costing him at least $40,000 and requiring two additional office staff. It’s worth pointing out that paper records are a thing of the distant past in virtually every industry other than health care, even my dog’s veterinarian is using electronic records!  Plus, electronic medical records (EMR) have been found to reduce the likelihood of mistakes in healthcare, from the innocuous but costly duplication of lab tests, to the potentially serious, sometimes fatal, misprescribing of medications, while lowering costs of care over the longterm.  

Putting that aside, Dr. Ventosa’s claim that he is required to computerize his records is simply incorrect.  While the ACA does promote the use of electronic medical records, nowhere in the law does it mandate that any providers make the switch.  On the contrary, the federal government offers funds to assist and encourage physicians to adopt EMR.  This includes up to $63,750 for physicians and their practices through the Medicaid Electronic Health Records Incentive Program. 

There is at least one very legitimate concern highlighted by Dr. Ventosa in the Intelligencer article, and that is a shortage of qualified medical professionals in many areas of the state.  After the ACA is fully implemented, it is estimated that 170,000 additional West Virginians are expected to have health insurance and they will need providers who are willing to see them.  Certainly though, having too many insured West Virginians is a better problem to have than too few insured patients.  The federal government is taking steps to address this issue as well by providing incentive pay and/or student loan payback for health professionals who practice in currently underserved areas. 

While we should applaud Dr. Ventosa for his decades of dedicated service to the children of this state, his reasoning to retire doesn’t square with the facts about the ACA.

2 Responses to “Is Obamacare Forcing West Virginia Doctors Out of Practice?”

  1. Mary says:

    You are wrong. Doctors are required to purchase an electronic medical records program and then companies such as GE who offer the software then mandate updates. EMR has cost my husband hundreds of thousands of dollars, from buying the program to updating an office of computers to handle it, to purchasing the updates and to hiring people to handle EMR.

    This is hitting primary care doctors the hardest. In my town, no primary care doctor accepts new Medicare patients now and 4 doctors I know are selling their houses in order to unencumber themselves from the community so they can move to larger cities. My Mother-in-law’s primary care doc is closing his practice and since she has medicare, she now has no doctor in town.

    Obamacare is destroying my community.

  2. Brandon Merritt Brandon Merritt says:

    Mary,

    I appreciate your time reading my post and responding. I would like to ask if you have any sources that you could send me that state that it is mandatory for physicians to move to electronic medical records. As I mentioned in my post, nowhere in the Affordable Care Act law does it mandate physicians begin using EMR. There is, however, a definite push to move physicians, clinics, and hospitals to electronic records which has been going on for many years now, preceding the ACA.

    I am sorry to hear about the challenges your husband has had in moving to EMR. If he has not yet done so, I would recommend that he look into the Medicare/Medicaid EHR Incentive Program to see if he would qualify for funding assistance.

    And I absolutely agree with you about the shortage of primary care doctors, especially in more rural areas, however this issue was identified decades ago in the United States and can be attributed to many factors, including the high cost of medical education and the lower salaries of primary care doctors compared to specialists. Fortunately, the ACA is expected to boost primary care, at least in some capacities. (http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Blog/2011/Jan/Affordable-Care-Act-Bolsters-Primary-Care.aspx)

    Brandon

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