Physician shortage will only get worse as need for primary care grows

As the demand for primary care increases, the country will experience a massive primary care physician (PCP) shortage, according to USA Today.

The U.S. will need 52,000 additional PCPs by 2025, with the demand driven primarily by population growth and an aging population, according to the article. While federal programs will add more than 2,000 in the next year and a half, funding for teaching hospitals, which could potentially train thousands of additional PCPs, will expire at the end of next year.

Population growth will account for the need for 33,000 additional PCPs, according to the article, while the aging population will account for 10,000 more, with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) increasing the number of family doctors needed by more than 8,000. The ACA should have addressed primary care, "because we already knew there was a problem--and we knew implementation of ACA would potentially make it worse," Farzan Bharucha, a strategist with consulting firm Kurt Salmon, told USA Today.

President Barack Obama's budget proposal includes initiatives to temper the PCP shortage by increasing primary care in underserved areas and upping Medicare and Medicaid payments for primary care services, but the $500 million a year budgeted for the plan will not keep pace with the limited number of U.S. residency positions, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Moreover, the USA Today article states, other contributing factors to the shortage that Obama's proposal would not address include:

  • Oversight in the distribution of federal funding for graduate medical education, which leans heavily in the direction of residencies for specialists, who bring in more revenue than PCPs.

  • The increasing cost of medical school, which left graduates with a median debt of $170,000 in 2012 compared to $50,000 in 1992.

  • Scope of practice laws, which Bharucha told USA Today keep nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants from performing vaccinations and strep tests. New York legislation that would expand NPs' scope of practice sharply divided NPs and doctors in the state.

To learn more:
- here's the article