Doctor shortage expected to hit 63,000 by 2015

By 2015, one year after health reforms will take effect in the U.S., there will be a physician shortage of roughly 63,000 doctors, according to new estimates from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Earlier figures had pegged the doctor shortage at slightly less than 40,000. 

The AAMC calls for an end to a freeze on Medicare support for residency training to stem the potential problem. A fact sheet accompanying the estimates notes that since 1997, Medicare support for doctors in training has not grown, despite an increase in the number of actual residents. 

"Because of the concern with likely shortages, the number of medical schools is increasing, and there will be an additional 7,000 graduates every year over the next decade," the AAMC argues. "Medicare must continue paying for its share of training costs by supporting at least a 15 percent increase in GME positions, allowing teaching hospitals to prepare for another 4,000 physicians a year to meet the needs of 2020 and beyond." 

While the U.S. can expect a 36 percent increase in the number of Americans over age 65 within the next 10 years, the number of doctors to treat those American will grow by only 7 percent, AAMC notes.

"In addition to the 15 million patients who will become eligible for Medicare, 32 million younger Americans will become newly insured as a result of healthcare reform," the AAMC adds, "and thereby intensify the demand for physicians even further." 

To learn more:
- look at this fact sheet from the AAMC
- here's an accompanying press release
- read this Reuters article
- check out this Chronicle of Higher Education brief