Will you be able to find a doctor next year when 32 million new people will be covered under health reform?


The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) has viewed this question and their projections are not pretty. A shortage of 55,300 doctors is estimated for 2014 and according to the graph could escalate to 159,300 by 2025. Contributing factors include specialty selection as opposed to primary care in addition to health reform and retirement of those doctors aging.
Clese Erikson, the director of workforce research points out that medical schools are on”track to reach a 30% increase by 2018″.  But “we believe that increased use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants will play a key role to ameliorate potential shortages.  More nurse practitioners and physician assistants will be needed in both primary care and specialty practices”.
Already 28 states have legislation pending that would award nurse practitioners the ability to practice without a doctor involvement and to prescribe narcotics.  Joanne Polh, professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing states “nurse practitioners have a significant role” in addressing the physician shortage. “They need to have barriers removed so they can practice to their fullest preparation.” Nurse practitioners can become generic alternative to ventolin “primary care providers of record for the increased numbers of patients who will have access to health care,” and that unlike physicians, they “continue to choose to practice in primary care.”
Massachusetts, a state reflecting health reform the most, has already seen he biggest impact is on Medicare patients. Doctors have stopped practicing or stopped participating in the Medicare program because they cannot afford to do so any longer.  According to Dr. Michael Bihari, president of a medical board,  “once a practice grows to 40% or 50% Medicare patients, the practice has trouble paying the bills” because of the low reimbursement rates.
Ways to take up the slack will include longer intervals between office visits, email and online communications and more phone advice.  This also translates into a situation where individuals will have to travel further for care or see different providers without a doctor-patient relationship as has been enjoyed in the past.  However, despite doctors refusing to accept new patients, they will most likely continue to see the ones in the practice currently.
So, hurry and start developing a relationship with a doctor near you!
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