Despite the technical glitches with the new government healthcare website and uncertainties surrounding the rollout of the new healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is moving forward slowly but surely. Thousands have already accessed the website to review their options and begin the enrollment process.
But many doctors still have reservations about the new law.
According to new research from the Medical Group Management Association, two in five physician practices are unsure about whether they will participate in the government-sponsored exchanges. Nearly 30 percent of physicians responding to the MGMA survey said they plan to participate in the exchanges, another 14 percent said they would not, and 16 percent haven’t decided. The MGMA research included responses from more than 1,000 medical groups in which more than 47,500 physicians participate.
In short, physician practices are taking a cautious approach to the exchanges. It’s still not clear how many people will sign up for the exchanges in their area, or if practices will contract to provide care under new exchange insurance products. And more than 80 percent of doctors responding to the MGMA survey are concerned about what they’ll be paid through the plans participating on the exchanges.
But despite these reservations, physician practices still want to provide care to the uninsured and a medically underserved population, and remain competitive in their local markets. 51 percent of survey respondents said that the new law is an “opportunity to replace current charity care as our uninsured patients obtain coverage.”
And despite the sluggish economy, the ranks of private physicians are still growing, adding over 36,000 jobs over the past year. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, by 2020 we’ll need 91,500 more doctors than we’re projected to have in this country, 45,000 in primary care and 46,500 surgeons and specialists.
That means disability insurance for doctors is still a market with high potential.
So why are doctors especially good candidates for DI coverage?
- They have more to lose: Physicians can easily come out of medical school with $150,000 - $200,000 in debt, so they naturally want to protect their substantial investment in their profession. If they become disabled, that debt doesn’t just vanish. And with a typical earning potential of $200,000 a year or more, they could earn $6 million over a 30-year career, so they have a lot of incentive to protect their income and lifestyle.
- Doctors know the risks intimately: Doctors see patients becoming disabled due to an unexpected illness or injury all the time, so they know first-hand that the risks are very real. And that kind of ongoing contact with the disabled no doubt keeps the possibility of a disability happening to them top of mind.
- Doctors want value more than low rates. Physicians are usually more concerned about the value of their benefits than the cost, especially when you point out to them that low rates generally translate into fewer and more restrictive benefits, unclear definitions, and hidden loopholes that might come back to haunt them in a claim.
This is a tumultuous time for the healthcare and health insurance industries. But despite the challenges, it’s indisputable that there will soon be millions more insured consumers seeking healthcare, and the need for quality physicians will continue to rise. And with or without the ACA, those physicians still have a high income potential and a real need to protect their income.
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