Healthcare Reform & The Orthopedic Surgeon

Orthopedic Job Outlook

About 4% of all 650,000 physicians are specialized in Orthopaedic Surgery according to the Labor Dept.  More than half of the healthcare providers practicing orthopedics are general orthopedics, while eleven percent are spinal, ten% are sports medicine, and the remainder focus in other sub-specializationsof Orthopedics.  The primary issue is that as many as 33 percent of today’s practicing healthcare providers may retire by the year 2020.

The Aging population

There is particular concern that in the near future as older physicians retire there is not enough healthcare providers coming up for the increased demand caused by the aging populace.  Rural areas in particular are vulnerable to attracting and retaining doctors.  Orthopedic surgery work are critical and will continue to be in high demand, with employment opportunities expected to grow faster than average between now and 2014.  As the elderly demographic of the US increases, there will be a higher incidence of musculoskeletal problem that occur with getting older.  As our population ages and our need for health care rises, the need for health care in the US is expected to continue to grow.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics foresees continued growth for surgery careers, especially in rural areas of the U.S. where there is a low ratio of healthcare providers to the population . The earning potential for Orthopedic Surgeons can range from $350,000 to more than $500,000, the highest salaries being found in the private practice arena.

Slow Economy

Other factors are also impacting the future demands in both directions besides  aging population, the shrinking economy and finally the impending health care “reform”. The general economic slowdown and the ensuing job loss across the country has had a direct impact on the revenue stream to physicians. When people lose their careers, they also lose their health care benefits and so access to health care. This loss is felt more in some parts of the country than others but  this should mitigate any shortages for the short term.

Last years stock market cave in has had a major impact on older doctors’ decisions. a great deal doctors are postponing retirement because of the economy’s impact on their retirement stockholdings. numerous physicians lost such a large part of their portfolio that they need to continue working to replace their loss.  But even a three – to five-year delay won’t deal with the lurking loss of practiced doctors to retirement. This postponement has resulted in some cases that fewer job opportunities being currently offered and graduating residents not finding as many opportunities as before. Residents rather than committing themselves to less desirable jobs are opting for Orthopedic locum employment and waiting before committing to full time employment.

Health Insurance Reform

Even with the insurance reform finally signed into law its effect on our health care is not known.  By 2014 their will be an increase in the enrollment into health care insurance programs. This change, when combined with the long term aging of the population, should push demand for services and therefore cost higher. However, no one yet knows what will happen to reimbursement rates from Medicare and this new program.  The issue is will there be rate a cut of reimbursement rates for different specialtiesby Medicare and this new program that may conversely become a decreasing factor of the income of all specializationsincluding Orthopaedics, its related specializations, and subspecializations.

Clearly the Obama administration has its hands full. We are aging and there are less young doctors to shoulder this rising financial burden.  The Sins of the Fathers…