What many had feared during the debate on the Obama health death care bill is becoming reality.
The Wall Street Journal of April 12, 2010, reports that in 15 years, America will have a shortfall of as many as 150,000 physicians due to increased demand as a result of the millions of people newly insured under ObamaCare.
ObamaCare is making more difficult the dilemma of hospitals and schools already scrambling to train more doctors. Currently, U.S. doctors total about 954,000. Of those, 352,908 are primary-care physicians.
The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts the impending shortfall will be greatest among primary-care physicians, and that 45,000 more will be needed by 2020. These general practitioners, internists, family physicians and pediatricians will have a larger role under ObamaCare, coordinating care for each patient. But the number of medical-school students entering family medicine fell more than a quarter between 2002 and 2007.
A shortage of primary-care and other physicians could mean more-limited access to health care and longer wait times for patients.
Proponents of the new health-care law say it does attempt to address the physician shortage. The law offers sweeteners to encourage more people to enter medical professions, and a 10% Medicare pay boost for primary-care doctors. But medical colleges and hospitals warn that these efforts will hit a big bottleneck: There is a shortage of medical resident positions. The residency is the minimum three-year period when medical-school graduates train in hospitals and clinics.
There are about 110,000 resident positions in the U.S., according to the AAMC. Teaching hospitals rely heavily on Medicare funding to pay for these slots. In 1997, however, Congress imposed a cap on funding for medical residencies, which hospitals say has increasingly hurt their ability to expand the number of positions.
Medicare pays $9.1 billion a year to teaching hospitals, which goes toward resident salaries and direct teaching costs, as well as the higher operating costs associated with teaching hospitals, which tend to see the sickest and most costly patients. Doctors’ groups and medical schools had hoped that ObamaCare, passed in March, would increase the number of funded residency slots, but such a provision didn’t make it into the final bill.
“It will probably take 10 years to even make a dent into the number of doctors that we need out there,” said Atul Grover, the AAMC’s chief advocacy officer.
To read the rest of the Wall Street Journal article, CLICK HERE.
~Eowyn & Steve
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