NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Coming Doctor Shortage

January 24, 2011

Recently, the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform proposed cutting Medicare funding to train doctors by $60 billion through 2020.  If this cut is enacted, the current doctor shortage would get far worse, says Herbert Pardes, president and CEO of New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

  • Already, 30 percent of hospitals lose money, according to the American Hospital Association, and even more barely break even.
  • Health care reform will add an estimated 32 million people to the ranks of the insured, driving them to seek medical attention that in the past they may have avoided due to expense.
  • The aging population will also create much greater demand: The number of seniors who need more medical care is expected to soar to 72 million by 2020 -- nearly double today's number.
  • But doctors are aging, too: Almost a third of doctors in the country -- about 250,000 -- are over the age of 55.

According to a 2010 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the increased demand means that our nation will need an additional 130,000 doctors, both general practice physicians and specialists, 15 years from now.  That's about 20 percent more doctors than we have currently.  Right now we train roughly 16,000 doctors a year.  To keep pace with demand, this nation will need to train an additional 6,000 to 8,000 each year for the next 20 years, but without Medicare reimbursements, many hospitals will not be able to afford to maintain critical training programs, says Pardes.

Source: Herbert Pardes, "The Coming Doctor Shortage," Wall Street Journal, January 19, 2011.


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