Is Obama’s Health Care Law Creating a Doctor Shortage?

March 11, 2013

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According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, by the time we reach 2015, we are going to be short 62,900 primary care physicians in the United States. They expect this number to be almost doubled by the time we reach 2025. A primary care physician is the first person a patient will seek if they are ill. Today, people are bypassing this, and going directly to emergency care. Many times, people are admitting themselves to the emergency room when in reality; they really do not need to be there. Why? New York Times authors, Annie Lowrey and Robert Pear, provide us with some interesting reasons. 

By 2014, the United States will be giving health care coverage to more than 30 million Americans. This is happening so rapidly that we will not have enough time to train new doctors to take care of these people. All the while, the overall population of the US is increasing as well. This is a problem because it takes approximately ten years to train a primary care physician. We will not have enough doctors to treat this increasing population. The amount of students attending medical school is increasing but the population of our country is increasing at a much faster rate. There is also a trend in students not wanting to become primary care physicians anymore because specialists are making almost twice the amount of money they would.  The primary care physicians that we do have still are nearing the ends of their careers as they are starting to retire and the younger physicians are not working as many hours during the day. 

In low-income, rural areas, the number of primary care physicians is dropping rapidly. This drop is requiring people to travel to hospitals and places that they can find the care they require. Emergency rooms are becoming jam-packed because waiting lists to meet with a primary care physician are longer than ever. The new health care plan is offering Medicaid to impoverished people; but, recently, less than half of primary care physicians are accepting new Medicaid patients. This is making it very difficult for low-income families to find health care at all.

The new health care law is seeking to fix this issue by increasing the Medicaid primary care payments, providing money needed to train new primary care physicians and put them through medical school, and to create some sort of compensation for those physicians who choose to work in a lower income area of the country. Some other fixes are to train nurses to be able to perform some of the same duties that primary care physicians do and to create more walk-in health clinics. 

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