Poll of 600 physicians shows frustration over insurer policies and delays that doctors say could be leaving patients in prolonged pain.
WASHINGTON — Are health insurance policies creating nightmares for physicians and hazards for their patients? A new study finds that nearly nine in ten doctors believe barriers set by insurance plans have led to worsened conditions for patients in need of care.
Researchers with Aimed Alliance, a non-profit that seeks to protect and enhance the rights of health care consumers and providers, say that doctors are so fed up with the constant headaches caused by insurers, two-thirds would recommend against pursuing a career in medicine, and nearly half (48%) are considering a career change altogether.
For the study, the organization polled 600 physicians in the U.S. practicing either family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, or obstetrics/gynecology. The group sought to understand the extent to which insurance policies impact primary care physicians, their practices, and their patients on a day-to-day basis. They also wanted to get a better understanding of mental health issues among providers, as well as the causes behind the national provider shortage.
Researchers found that physicians don’t think very highly of health insurance companies, and believe they’re putting patients at risk with policies such as prior authorizations ahead of filling prescriptions. In fact, 87% of doctors say patients’ conditions have grown worse because of such red-tape regulations, and 83% worry the patients will suffer prolonged pain as a result.
Prior authorizations are especially bothersome for doctors. More than nine in ten (91%) of those surveyed think the policy delays necessary care for patients. Similarly, the same number of doctors agree insurers engage in “non-medical switching,” which forces patients to take less costly — but potentially less effective — medicines.
Such policies are stressing many physicians out. Thirty-seven percent say half or more of their daily stress is caused by insurance issues, and 65% feel they’re facing greater legal risks because of decisions made by insurers. The vast majority (85%) are left frustrated by such issues, and many admit to taking their anger and emotions out on their staff and even family members.
“I can understand why many of the respondents reported that they would not recommend this career to anyone else,” Dr. Shannon Ginnan, medical director of Aimed Alliance, tells StudyFinds. “As practitioners, much of our time is spent on burdensome paperwork required from health insurers for our services to be paid for. This prevents us from spending as much time on patient care as we would like, and it doesn’t take much for all this paperwork to interfere with the services that we provide.”
To Ginnan’s point, the survey showed that 77% of doctors have had to hire more staffers to handle the heavier administrative load from insurance work. Ninety-percent say they have less time to spend with patients because of the burden.
As for the aspect of insurers’ policies that doctors would like to see changed most, the majority (55%) agreed on an insurers’ ability to override the professional judgment of physicians. About nine out of ten (87%) respondents felt that insurer personnel interfere with their ability to provide individualized treatments for each patient.
Beyond the harm that doctors say insurance policies cause patients in need of care, they also agree that patients are taking a hit in their bank accounts too. Doctors believe that insurers are contributing to the rising cost of healthcare more than anything else, including pharmaceutical companies, government policies, lawsuits, or hospitals.
The organization hope their study will provide lawmakers solid data when attempting to reform health care laws and regulations related to utilization management and provider shortages.
The survey was conducted on behalf of Aimed Alliance by David Binder Research.