Doctor shortage amplified with Obama health care system

Eleven months ago, I wrote about the future physician shortage mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. This was prior to the passage of the Democrat-owned health care legislation and nobody wanted to discuss the issue. A study by the Association of American Medical Colleges notes the shortage will now be worse than expected.

From my post in November…

A couple of lines popped out at me last night while reading Herbert Pardes opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled The Coming Shortage of Doctors. Congress continues to consider a health care plan to fix the crisis that really does not exist. Yes, I know, some people are unable to pay health care insurance premiums and not everything is covered 100 percent, but everyone does currently have access to health care.

My point is that without the service side of the equation – enough doctors – you may not have access to any health care at all.

Even in the absence of health-care reform, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges, the U.S. will face a shortage of at least 125,000 physicians by 2025. We have about 700,000 active physicians today. One factor driving this shortage is that the baby-boomer generation is getting older and will require more care. By 2025 the number of people over 65 will have increased by about 75% of what it is today—to 64 million from 37 million today.

Doctors are also aging. By 2020, as many as one-third of the physicians currently practicing will likely retire. If health-care reform adds millions of people to the health-care market, the shortage of doctors will be even greater than it is projected to be now.

Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy when I consider my own ability to access health care – even with insurance – when I get into my 60s in less than 20 years.

Maybe if I take an EMT course or something so I can treat myself…

Today, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air points to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) study indicated the shortage of physicians will be 50 percent worse than originally expected. The AAMC does provide one suggestion to help reduce the impact, lift the freeze on Medicare-supported residency positions that has been in place since 1997.

Here’s a snippet from the AAMC report (PDF, 82KB).

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the physician supply will increase by only 7 percent in the next 10 years. In some specialties, including urology and thoracic surgery, the overall supply of physicians will actually decrease. At the same time, the Census Bureau projects a 36 percent growth in the number of Americans over age 65, the very segment of the population with the greatest health care needs.

As a result, by 2020 our nation will face a serious shortage of both primary care and specialist physicians to care for an aging and growing population. According to the AAMC’s Center for Workforce Studies, there will be 45,000 too few primary care physicians – and a shortage of 46,000 surgeons and medical specialists – in the next decade.

Our doctors are getting older, too. Nearly one-third of all physicians will retire in the next decade just as more Americans need care.

The shortfall in the number of physicians will affect everyone, but the impact will be most severe on vulnerable and underserved populations. These groups include the approximately 20 percent of Americans who live in rural or inner-city locations designated as health professional shortage areas.

There are many other issues involved other than the aforementioned freeze on Medicare-funded residency programs, and Morrissey notes just one of them … Medicare rate caps.

The artificial cap on reimbursements — a form of price-fixing — will be the main culprit.  With education becoming more and more expensive, physicians need to recoup their investment in it from plying their trade.  Unfortunately, government reimbursement schedules will force payments down through the entire industry, making specializations in areas that have Medicare or Medicaid implications much less attractive.  Those who can choose specialties will be more likely to go into cosmetic surgery, Lasik, and other areas where third-party payer structures are not an issue.

Obamacare authors, Democrats and the White House continue to be silent on this issue. Way to lead guys…

4 replies
  1. cherwin
    cherwin says:

    I have been working in Connecticut as an RN for almost 30 years. I work with developmentally disabled individulas in the private sector. They all have a primary care physician. In the past six months, six of the primary care physicians have left their practice and I have had to find another one or in some cases the client was assigned to another physician or APRN.

    In all the years I have been doing this job, I have never seen that happen. I don't know if they retired, moved or just quit but whatever the reason it's a rather disturbing trend.

    The rumor in the medical community is, doctors and other medical professionals are not going to work under the control of government. It goes against everything that we have been taught. If you are restricted from treating and caring for patients in a humane and appropriate way, then why bother practicing medicine?

    There is no doubt in my mind that Obamacare is going to radically damage healthcare in America.

  2. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    What a shame that the Democrats will have to take credit for this farce all by themselves.  That is the only reason they were trying to get at least one Republican vote for this debacle.

  3. Dom Rosa
    Dom Rosa says:

    Our health insurance system, including ObamaCare, is a boondoggle. In many countries that have a sound National Health Insurance System (e.g. France, etc.) there is a SURPLUS of medical doctors. I wonder why?

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