Did you know that American doctors are so incensed over Obamacare's big-government communist socialism that more than eight in ten are going to quit doctoring? It's true, according to a terribly conducted survey conducted by a shady right-wing group, reported credulously by the Daily Caller, and hyped by Matt Drudge and Fox News.
"Eighty-three percent of American physicians have considered leaving their practices over President Barack Obama's health care reform law, according to a survey released by the Doctor Patient Medical Association," reported the Daily Caller yesterday. What is the Doctor Patient Medical Association? The Daily Caller didn't seem too interested (beyond calling them "a non-partisan association of doctors and patients") so we'll have to fill in a few gaps.
The Doctor Patient Medical Association's founder, Kathryn Serkes, is a long-time veteran of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a collection of crackpot malcontents that opposes mandatory vaccinations, wrongly believes undocumented immigrants spread leprosy, and dabbled in Vince Foster conspiracy theorism. The group itself is solidly conservative in its politics: it boasts membership in the National Tea Party Federation; describes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as "Destruction Of Our Medicine," or DOOM; and published a sheet of talking points about the health law to help grassroots activists "beat back the White House spin machine!"
But what about this improbable survey indicating that more than 3/4 of doctors have considered hanging up the stethoscope rather than tolerate Obamacare? Well, the first thing to point out is that the survey didn't actually ask about the Affordable Care Act. Here's the question and the results as given by DPMA:
How do current changes in the medical system affect your desire to practice medicine?
I'm re-energized - 4.6%
Makes me think about quitting - 82.6%
Unsure/no opinion - 12.8%
So they're just assuming that every respondent, upon reading "current changes in the medical system," thought "Obamacare" and nothing else? Doesn't seem too likely. And when asked to give their opinion on these undefined "changes," they were given three options: super-excited, ready to quit, and "unsure." What if they were just slightly dissatisfied? Or cautiously optimistic? The survey left no room for anyone who didn't hold an extreme position.
All this leads up to 83 percent of respondents saying they are ready to quit their chosen profession even though they don't know what they're quitting over. That's a fairly good clue that we're not dealing with the most reliable sample.
And how did we arrive at this unreliable sample? Let's take a look at the methodology [emphasis added]:
The survey was conducted by fax and online from April 18 to May 22, 2012. DPMAF obtained the office fax numbers of 36,000 doctors in active clinical practice, and 16,227 faxes were successfully delivered. Doctors were asked to return their completed surveys by fax, or online at a web address included in the faxed copy. Browser rules prevented doctors from filing duplicate surveys, and respondents were asked to provide personal identification for verification. The response rate was 4.3% for a total of 699 completed surveys.
They had a tiny sample size culled from a scattershot blast-fax that allowed respondents more than a month to answer their questions. And it seems pretty clear that of the vanishingly small percentage that did actually respond, the vast majority were ideologically sympathetic to the DPMA and had axes in need of grinding. If you look at the survey demographics they provided, you'll see that a full 25 percent of respondents were from the South, which is generally more conservative than the rest of the country.
The survey question is entirely worthless as a barometer of professional medical opinion regarding the Affordable Care Act. Which is likely the reason no one paid it any mind when DPMA released it last month. But then the dim bulbs at the Breitbart empire picked it up, followed by the Daily Caller and Drudge, leading to its inevitable appearance on Fox News this morning. It's a uniquely awful survey, but it served up a shocking, headline-friendly number, which is why it's driving the right-wing media's coverage of health care policy.