Jonathan Phillips, MD, former orthopedic surgeon at Orlando (Fla.) Health, joined Becker's to discuss how the potential CMS pay cut will affect patients and why he chose to retire early.
Editor's note: This interview was edited lightly for clarity and length.
Question: If CMS follows through with its proposed 4.42 percent physician pay cut, how will physicians & patients be affected?
Dr. Jonathan Phillips: I recently retired at the age of 62. There were many reasons, but the most important was a decrease in salary of 10 percent over a two-year period as a result of a contract renegotiation with my employer. A decrease of 4.4 percent by CMS will effectively be a greater than 10 percent salary loss in real terms, given 8 percent inflation. We only have to look at the recent spike of resignations by senior physicians in the United States to predict what’s going to happen. We are already looking at a shortage of thousands of doctors over the next several years, and this will exacerbate the problem hugely. Access to timely healthcare in the United States will be severely harmed, and patients will suffer. I am one of those patients now, and I’m concerned for the future of my own healthcare.
It’s inconceivable to me that anyone within administration at CMS would accept a 4.4 percent pay cut. It just does not happen.The same goes for hospital administrators who increasingly expect physicians to work longer hours for less money so they can profit from our efforts. There is a parallel in the nursing profession, and we have seen the wave of resignations and retirements here, too.
Q: How will declining physician pay alter the healthcare industry?
JP: Until our government realizes that they have created a hugely toxic environment, which healthcare workers increasingly decide not to tolerate, the standard of medicine in this country will continue to decline. The disempowerment, disrespect and interference in clinical practice at all levels in this country is depressing. I trained in the National Health Service in the U.K. and came to the U.S. a long time ago to escape the government's stupidity in that land. Sadly, we are going in the same direction in my adopted nation.