NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fixing the Physician Shortage

July 20, 2015

Over the last 10 years there has been increasing concern about an impending shortage of practicing primary care physicians in the United States, fueled by several factors, says Thomas Hemphill and Gerald Knesk.. These include:

  • A significant percentage of American physicians will reach retirement age by 2020.
  • An unprecedented growth in the number of Americans living beyond age 65.
  • An influx of up to 30 million Americans entering the health care system as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

There is also a projected shortage in practicing non-primary care physicians. This shortage will amount to around 33,100 physicians by 2015. Specifically there is a chronic shortage of psychiatrists in the United States. Yet, according to the AANP, as of 2013, only 3.2 percent of all nurse practitioners are certified as psychiatric mental health NPs.

To address this:

  • States that currently do not allow "full scope of practice" status for nurse practitioners should do so.
  • Telepsychiatry,  or providing mental health care via video technology, is a way of reducing the shortage. Removing regulatory barriers to this practice may help solve the shortages.
  • Standardizing the PA curriculum to two years and allowing the NCCPA, a private organization, to handle the requirements will help remove the current patchwork of requirements.

Through a combination of professional self-regulation and public regulatory reform measures, the authors argue that the shortage in non-primary care physicians can be partially alleviated.

Source: Thomas A Hemphill and Gerald Knesk, "The Non-Medical Remedy to the Physician Shortage," Regulation, Cato Institute, Summer 2015.


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