Physicians Harbor Labor Day Blues

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , September 1, 2011

Caught between healthcare reform mandates and a weak economy, many physicians are observing Labor Day 2011 with little to cheer about. They are fretting that financial conditions will force them to postpone retirement indefinitely.  And in this regard, they are no different from many Americans who are struggling with pressing financial concerns.

It's no surprise that Baby Boomer and older "Silent Generation" physicians plan to delay their retirement. What is surprising is that Generation Xers are also thinking about it, even though retirement is many years away, according to Jackson &Coker, an Alpharetta, GA physician placement firm

A Jackson & Coker August survey  shows more than 52% of physicians who had planned to retire within the next six years have put those plans on hold, citing glum diagnoses of their economic condition.

Physicians cited declining property values, reduced retirement savings, and children's college funds as among the major reasons why they will likely continue working, as well as their loss of confidence in Social Security and Medicare. At least 70% said the loss of their personal savings and uncertainty in improving their financial condition was a main reason for delaying retirement.

"It seems like doctors are caught between recession and reform," says Sheri Sorrell, marketing manager at Jackson & Coker. "We know a lot of doctors in single practices are feeling like they have to sell their practices to a hospital because they can't afford the overhead."

Jackson & Coker did not ask the survey participants their age, only their years in practice. "It was a surprise to us that folks quite concerned about delaying their retirement are generally Generation Xers," Sorrell says. "The Baby Boomers are saying they will be doing some part-time work, or able to semi-retire up the road. For the Generation X folks, they are going to have to deal with the effects of healthcare reform."

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3 comments on "Physicians Harbor Labor Day Blues"

Keith Jennings (9/2/2011 at 6:00 PM)
Enjoyed reading your report on this research, Joe. Thank you for sharing this.

A. J. Rosmarin (9/1/2011 at 10:35 PM)
Emotional integration for the sake of "just doing something" is never a good reason to sell one's practice. With one-third of practicing physicians aged 55 and over - over 250,000 physicians - this is a subject of increasing frequency and concern amongst physicians all over the country looking for an exit strategy and a way to monetize the goodwill in their practices from, in many cases, over 25 years of business and dedication to their patients.

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC (9/1/2011 at 3:19 PM)
As a physician advocate, I have found many of my recent conversations with physicians to be quite depressing for the very reasons you have elucidated. Physicians, more than ever, are feeling like cogs in a machine, subject to pressure from government and state mandates, threats of audits, patient impatience, bottom-line thinking and other such trials. While I recognize that there are realities in life and business for everyone to deal with, and I have little tolerance for unwarranted whining, I fear that physician anger and despair may lead to a backlash that we as a society will ultimately find threatening to the health of our social fabric.




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