ObamaCare Will Worsen the Physician Shortage

July 2, 2013

What many evaluations of the impact of the Affordable Care Act ("ObamaCare") on the American health care system and the economy miss is the distinction between health insurance and health care, say Yevgeniy Feyman, a research associate, and Paul Howard, a senior fellow, with the Manhattan Institute.

  • Close to 30 million people will receive the former under the law -- but the health care that these 30 million will receive can't be measured quite so easily.
  • Health-system researchers have long noted that the nation faces a growing shortage of physicians across all specialties -- around 130,000 by 2025.
  • Adding 30 million Americans to the insurance rolls will exacerbate access-to-care challenges; those with newly minted ObamaCare insurance policies will likely struggle to find doctors willing to see them in a timely manner.
  • In a new report for the Manhattan Institute, Feyman and Howard find that roughly a quarter of the doctor shortage -- about 30,000 doctors -- will be among primary care physicians.
  • This is particularly worrisome, given that these doctors are envisioned as the "entry point" for millions of currently uninsured people into the health care system.

Feyman and Howard's analysis indicates that, while the majority of this shortage will be propelled by population growth and demographic changes (an aging population, for instance), ObamaCare will also have a measurable impact. The law will contribute up to 16.5 percent of the shortage by 2025, requiring about 5,000 more primary care physicians.

ObamaCare makes some attempts to remedy the problem -- increased funding for the National Health Services Corps, higher reimbursements for primary care under Medicaid, and expanded funding for nursing education, for instance -- but these are minor steps where a leap is needed. In the rush for "universal coverage," ObamaCare's architects seem to have underestimated the problem of inadequate physician supply. The law, for the most part, failed to address head-on the regulatory and reimbursement policies exacerbating this problem.

Source: Yevgeniy Feyman and Paul Howard, "ObamaCare Will Worsen the Physician Shortage," Real Clear Policy, June 27, 2013.

 

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