New Mexico is experiencing a primary care provider (PCP) shortage, a serious issue as the state expects thousands of patients to enter into the state and federal health insurance exchanges, and a wave of physicians are set to retire, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
Figures cited in the article put the state at 1,429 active PCPs, with a need for at least an additional 219, based on New Mexico's population. An anticipated 160,000 new Medicaid patients will purchase coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which could add more tension and longer waits to an already strained healthcare system, according to the article.
A survey by the New Mexico Primary Care Association showed 76 federally-funded health clinics across the state reported waits between one and four weeks for non-urgent calls, the Journal wrote.
The shortage could affect rural areas the most, as a report by the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center revealed most of the current health providers are based in the cities, according to the article.
To help combat long waits and fewer doctors, state leaders are taking initiatives to recruit doctors to practice in New Mexico. Gov. Susana Martinez (R) revealed a $5 million plan that includes loan repayment programs and adding new positions for PCPs and nurse practitioners at the UNM Health Sciences Center. Meanwhile, the Legislative Finance Committee proposed finding $11.6 million in the budget for increased medical education funding, medical residencies and loan repayment programs.
"Expanding Medicaid was the right thing to do for New Mexico," Martinez said. "But we have an important obligation to meet the new demands imposed by it."
The state's problem reflects a national trend, with the Association of American Medical Colleges predicting a PCP shortage of 45,000 in the U.S. by 2020, according to a separate Journal article.
New Mexico isn't only facing a physician shortage. Last year, Gov. Martinez requested money for a marketing campaign to recruit nurses from other states to try and meet the need for at least 3,000 additional nurses required to deal with an anticipated demand for healthcare, FierceHealthcare previously reported.