Physician shortage isn't that bad

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Despite reports that the supply of physicians is in dire straits, new research finds the doctor shortage may not be as great as people feared, at least on a national level, reports Scripps Howard News Service.

In fact, the number of med school applicants is at an all-time high, according the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). First-time applicants increased 2.6 percent from last year to 32,654 students, and total applicants rose 2.8 percent to 43,919 applicants, AAMC said in an October report. Actual enrollment rose 3 percent, according to Scripps Howard.

For example, the anticipated demand for healthcare providers under health reform in Colorado isn't as great as anticipated, according to a report this week by the Colorado Health Institute. With an estimated 510,000 additional Coloradans expected to be covered by health insurance between 2014 and 2016, the state will need 83 to 141 additional physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, the report found.

"The additional half-million insured Coloradans is going to stress the system, but it's not going to break it," Colorado Health Institute President and CEO Michele Lueck said in a Health Policy Solutions article.

However, other states are concerned about not being able to meet demand. The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University are encouraging the state--named the most challenged state in meeting medical needs--to recruit and train more doctors, reports NewsOK.

South Carolina similarly lags in providing an adequate work force compared to other states, according to a Charleston Regional Business Journal article. One challenge to retaining physicians in the area is limited graduate-level training. Another is the aging physician population; about one-fifth are age 60 or older (approaching retirement age).

The Obama administration last month announced it is allocating $1 billion to expand the number of healthcare jobs by hiring, training and deploying healthcare workers.

For more information:
- read the Scripps Howard News Service article
- read the Health Policy Solutions article
- read the Denver Post article
- here's the NewsOK article
- check out the Charleston Regional Business Journal article

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