In Idaho, economic impact another reason to try to attract more doctors, convince lawmakers to step up with funding

Doctor
In Idaho, the economic impact doctors contribute is another reason to convince lawmakers to support policies that bring more physicians to the state. (Pixabay/Free-Photos)

Susie Pouliot, the CEO of the Idaho Medical Association, uses every card in the deck to convince state lawmakers to support policies to bring more doctors to the medically underserved state.

That includes the use of the data developed by the American Medical Association’s physician economic impact study that provides a state-by-state breakdown of the benefits physicians bring to their state, besides their number one contribution: providing patient healthcare.

As in other states, Idaho’s 2,738 patient-care doctors contribute economic output, jobs, employee compensation and tax revenue. Pouliot told AMA Wire she uses the data to help lawmakers understand those benefits.

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“We have used this economic impact data to emphasize we need more physicians in Idaho, and here is the benefit that we get when we make policies that enable us to draw more physicians to practice in our state,” she told AMA Wire.

The AMA says the data that demonstrates physicians’ economic impact can help sway policy at the state level and is more than just an interesting collection of numbers. State medical associations have used the data to successfully argue on behalf of patients and physicians, the association said.

Nationally, the data found that physicians are directly and indirectly responsible for a $2.3 trillion contribution to the nation’s economy and support nearly 12.6 million jobs. The report said that every dollar applied to physician services supports an additional $2.84 in other business activity.

RELATED: Hospitals added 7,300 jobs in July, continuing a trend of job growth in the healthcare industry

In Idaho, the state medical association has launched a major campaign to get additional state funding for a 10-year program to increase the number of graduate medical education positions. The legislature there needs to come up with $5.2 million for the first year of the program to fund 17 slots.

In Idaho’s fiscally conservative statehouse, it helps to convince lawmakers it’s a wise investment to spend the money. “We say, ‘Hey, if you invest in training, say, 100 new physicians in Idaho—with our retention rates, we expect 50 of them to stay. And here is the economic impact,’” said Pouliot. “I think they are surprised at the extent of just how much we [physicians] contribute and I think the jobs figure is especially interesting.”

According to the AMA’s study, Idaho physicians directly and indirectly account for 33,179 jobs—more than a dozen per doctor—representing total wages and benefits of $2.5 billion. In terms of total state and local tax revenue, the figure is $168.6 million.

RELATED: A state-by-state look at where doctors are needed most

Keeping doctors is also important in states such as Iowa. The data can also come into play in convincing legislators not to make changes—proposed reimbursement cuts or laws that would create a more negative liability environment—that would cause doctors to want to leave the state, Pouliot said.

A report from the Association of American Medical Colleges found that Idaho ranked 49th on the list of states in terms of physician-to-people ratios. Compared to Massachusetts, which has a high of 443.5 active physicians per 100,000 people, Idaho has only 192.6 physicians per 100,000 residents.

That report also identified the continuing problem of attracting doctors to work in rural communities, as some states struggle to retain doctors who have undergone training. To try to attract and keep doctors, medical schools, hospitals and state legislators try creative methods—such as forgiving student loans, mentoring programs, recruiting graduates with local ties and increasing training slots.

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