Contrary to the widespread belief that all doctors are wealthy and live in gated country club enclaves, many American doctors are so hard pressed financially they're going broke and thinking of quitting the medical profession.  It's true.

Industry watchers say the trend is worrisome. Half of all doctors in the nation operate a private practice.  So if a cash crunch forces an independent practice to close, it robs a community of a vital health care resource.

Doctors list shrinking insurance reimbursements, changing regulations, rising business and drug costs, and the extremely high cost of malpractice insurance  among the factors preventing them from keeping their practices afloat.

Recent 35% to 40% cuts in Medicare reimbursements for key cardiovascular services, such as stress tests and echocardiograms, have taken a substantial toll on revenue, and it will get worse in the coming year when a 24.7 % cut in Medicare reimbursements takes effect.

Some say doctors'  lack of business skills gets some of the blame.  A private practice is like a small business.  The only difference is that a third party is paying for the service instead of the patient.

One medical consultant says doctors are trained in medicine, not how to run a business.  That's why most doctors in clinical practices have professional office managers and accountants, which only adds to the financial drain because they're expensive.

Most doctors who're leaving the profession say it's because they spend more time struggling with bureaucratic paperwork and the business side of their practice than they spend treating patients.

They say that's not what they signed up for.

via Small Business: Doctors going broke - Jan. 5, 2012.

Because of Medicare's shrinking reimbursements, and its bureaucratic paperwork requirements, more and more doctors have stopped taking Medicare patients.

This is creating a new crisis for the growing population of retired baby boomers and older seniors. Medicare is the only insurance most of them have, and it's getting harder and harder for them to find doctors willing to treat them.