The coming doctor shortage
posted at 12:46 pm on November 15, 2012 by Mary Katharine Ham
In which liberals learn how people respond to incentives. Who’d have thought highly trained professionals with $200K in school loans would gravitate toward higher paying specialized medicine slots instead of taking on general practice Medicaid patients for whom the government pays less and less in compensation?
The problem does not appear to be one of too few doctors in general; in fact, in 2011 a total of 17,364 new doctors emerged from the country’s medical schools, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Too few of these doctors, however, choose primary care as a career — an issue that may be worsening.
In a 2008 census by the AAMC and the American Medical Association, researchers found that the number of medical graduates choosing a career in family medicine dropped from 5,746 in 2002 to 4,210 in 2007 — a drop of nearly 27 percent.
“It’s pretty tough to convince medical students to go into primary care,” said Dr. Lee Green, chair of Family Medicine at the University of Alberta, who was not involved with the study.
The pinch will get worse as Obamacare expands Medicaid’s patient load. There’s precedent for this— sigh, Romneycare:
Perhaps the best known example of this approach has been Massachusetts, which since 2006 has mandated that every resident obtain health insurance and those that are below the federal poverty level gain free access to health care. But although the state has the second-highest ratio of primary care physicians to population of any state, they are struggling with access to primary care physicians.
Dr. Randy Wexler of The John Glenn Institute of Public Service and Policy said he has concerns that this trend could be reflected nationwide.
“Who is going to care for these people?” he said. “We are going to have problems just like Massachusetts. [They] are struggling with access problems; it takes one year to get into a primary care physician. Coverage does not equal access.”
Experts offer solutions such as the federal government offering “incentives” on our dime to encourage more doctors into primary care, nurse practitioners taking up some of the slack, and my favorite, “hold[ing] political leaders accountable.”
“Looking at sheer reality, we can’t turn on a spigot and drop out new doctors,” he said. “Expect long waits if we cannot figure out how to resolve it, the only place left to go for primary care will be the emergency room.”
Green’s outlook was not as rosy.
“[Patients] won’t be able to see a primary care physician hardly,” he said. “Primary care will be past saturated with wait times longer and will not accept any new patients. There will be an increase in hospitalizations and increase in death rates for basic preventable things like hypertension that was not managed adequately.”
Meet the new two-tiered, government-distorted medical system, same as the old two-tiered, government-distorted medical system, only worse. Aren’t you glad we did this?
I know a few Georgetown Med School grads, and no one they know is going into general practice. They all know the economics and they know what’s coming.