Could Health Reform Worsen Doctor Shortages?
The United States is already experiencing a shortage of doctors and nurses in some specialties, notably primary care. But significant health reform could make that shortage even worse, some fear.
For all the plaudits Massachusetts received for its health reform efforts, it also experienced a noticeable shortage in healthcare professionals, according to a Miami Herald story.
Here's an excerpt:
"It's not that it gets worse; it gets more noticeable," said Brian Rosman, research director for Health Care For All, a Boston-based advocacy group that is tracking the overhaul's effects. "What it did do is spur state authorities to pay attention to this issue."
Two years ago, Massachusetts authorized retail clinics for the first time, allowing drugstore chains to pick up some of the slack by offering consumers a place to go to for routine care such as immunizations and ear-infection treatment, he said. The state also started a loan forgiveness program to help offset the debt burden for new medical school graduates who agree to serve as primary-care doctors in underserved areas.
"They're working at addressing it as best they can, but the long-term solution has to come from the federal government and has to involve building payment structures that support" primary care, Rosman said.
In the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, columnist and former editor Waldo Proffitt also notes that fewer medical students are choosing to specialize in pediatrics, family practice, geriatrics or nursing – the fields that are our first contact with the health care system and would be more in demand with health care reform.
That's because medical school costs are rising, and generalists aren't paid as well as specialists, Proffitt said, citing a recent Merritt Hawkins study.
How is your state faring? Are you experiencing a shortage in nurses and primary care physicians? How exactly is this affecting the delivery of medical care to residents? How aware is your community of this problem?
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