Sad and unhappy nurseIf it appears that the number of ob-gyn physicians in private practice is shrinking, it’s not a figment of your imagination; it’s real. There are a burgeoning number of obstetricians who can no longer pay for malpractice insurance but they’re too embarrassed to tell you. Shrinking reimbursements (or payments) from insurance companies coupled with higher medical practice premiums have changed the landscape of obstetrics dramatically.

Some Ob physicians have stopped delivering babies, others have retired from private practice and many have become hospital employees called hospitalists. Hospitalists will take care of you in the hospital while your ob provider sees patients in the office; in some cases, a LOT more patients, but more on that in a minute.

Contrary to popular belief, the days of milk and honey for most physicians are gone. Money previously spent on vacation homes, boats, luxury cars and exotic vacations is now used to pay for billing code specialists, and triple the number of their original office staff in order to fulfill insurance demands. False denials of payments by insurance companies mean additional paperwork and manpower. Delay of payments is the order of the day and higher patient co-pays certainly don’t help. Many physicians can’t provide health insurance for their office staff because of prohibitive costs.

It’s not a coincidence that gyn-“spas” are on the rise and your gynecologist is now doing liposuction, facials and selling vitamins. Some obstetricians opt to see more patients as a way to compensate for their losses and that becomes a dilemma. As the number of patients increases, the quality of their care decreases.

There is also the danger of monopolies forming when hospital systems purchase physician practices which could drive up the cost of healthcare even more and limit your physician’s autonomy.  So, what is a patient to do? Empower yourself with information. Ask how many patients your physician sees per day before making an appointment. If your insurance company is delaying payment for your procedure, file an official complaint with your State Commissioner of Insurance or to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid if it’s a self-insured plan. If your OB is honest enough to admit their concerns, ask how you can help.

Small changes CAN make big differences.