While debate swirls around the Senate regarding insurance for the American population, few are looking at who the providers for the insurance coverage will be.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges in their October 2008 article “The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections through 2025”, there will be a physician shortage of approximately 124,000 physicians by 2025 in the United States.
The American Academy of Medical Colleges projects a shortfall of 71,000 physicians by 2025 by efforts to boost medical school enrollment.
In addition to these sad figures, a glaring fact (published in JAMA 2008; 300(10): 1154-1164) is that only 2% of medical school enrollees plan to enter general internal medicine, which comprises the main care-giving specialty. This will create even greater demand and shortfalls in finding the physician to treat you.
So, who will be providing your healthcare?
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the number of physician assistant graduates will drop 25% by 2020 and the nurse practitioner graduate number will decline 4.5% each year.
The situation begs the question, why?
Certainly the reason is not due to a failing economy. Poor employment crises in the past led to increased enrollment in medical school. After all, becoming a physician was thought to ensure continued employment and financial security.
Could it be the scenario that is currently being played out?
One where every day, a new burden and obstacle is placed before the physician who is then asked to foot the bill himself?
In a capitalistic society where people are paid for their efforts and more innovation and effort is put forth for compensation, physicians are being asked to reduce fees, accept less reimbursement for more work and more headache. It is presumed that because there is a healthcare crisis and healthcare is a right of a people, those healthcare providers should naturally, being nurturers, want to step forward and take up the burden.
The greatest minds our youth provide are being diverted into business, not medicine for some very obvious if not lucrative reasons.
If this problem is not addressed, healthcare insurance or lack of it will be the least of our healthcare problems!