The United States is poised to experience a shortfall of up to 52,000 primary care physicians by 2025, according to a new study in the Annals of Family Medicine.
To meet that demand, federal and state governments are pushing hard to encourage more young physicians to enter the field, widely considered to be less lucrative than most specialties.
While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced that it will increase Medicaid reimbursements to family doctors, internists and pediatricians next year, some state medical societies are lobbying for medical schools to make primary care specialties a higher priority.
In New Jersey, for example, where only 7 percent of the state's doctors practice family medicine, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians is encouraging the state to instruct its medical schools to allot a larger share of their budgets to family medicine, as well as provide additional funding for medical-school programs that attract applicants who are interested in family medicine, NJAFP Government Affairs Director Claudine M. Leone told NJSpotlight.
A stiffer challenge, however, is getting students to consider comparatively lower-paying positions in primary care when facing substantial educational debt, the article noted.
However, a study published in Academic Medicine determined that primary care careers can indeed be economically viable for current medical school students who graduate with a median debt of about $160,000.
But for the 23 percent of 2011 graduates from private medical schools with debts topping $250,000, the authors acknowledged that a primary care path would be much more difficult. "Such graduates who choose primary care likely would need to live in a low-cost area or engage in some type of nonstandard loan repayment plan to avoid incurring additional debt in the decade after graduation," Medical Economics reported.