NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 23, 2010

The consensus generally indicates that health reform will exacerbate current or looming physician shortages across the country, particularly in primary care.  Long term, the nation may see a shortage of about 160,000 physicians by 2025, reports the American Medical News.  

Although the health law includes provisions to get more medical students enrolled, states worry they may not be able to beat the clock, says Fierce Healthcare: 

  • Mississippi, already suffering the worst doctor shortage in the country, will have an additional 500,000 insured patients in 2014 when the individual health insurance mandate takes effect.
  • The University of Mississippi Medical Center -- the state's only medical school, which already produces half of its physicians -- has been working to increase enrollment.
  • In March, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine in Lubbock, Texas, announced a three-year family medicine track medical degree.  

But medical schools alone cannot resolve the primary care shortage, there have to be several different approaches, says Fierce Healthcare. 

Another approach, for example, may mean physicians experimenting with delegating more responsibility to nonphysician practitioners, said Dr. Richard "Buz" Cooper, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and co chair of the Council on Physician and Nurse Supply.   

"We are going to have a lot more insured people, and it isn't only that they'll be getting routine services," Cooper said.   "These people aren't routine.  They have a lifelong reservoir of poor health," says Fierce Healthcare. 

Source: Debra Beaulieu, "States assess health law's impact on physician shortages," Fierce Healthcare, April 12, 2010.

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