Physician Shortage Limits Even Insured Patients' Access To Care

CBS News reports that just having insurance coverage "doesn't guarantee access" to health care, because there is s shortage of primary care doctors to provide treatment. "Baystate Medical Center is the second busiest emergency room in Massachusetts. They treat over 100,000 patients a year, but here's the thing: according to Dr. Niels Rathlev, who runs the ER, a quarter of them don't need his services." Rathlev says it would be "more appropriate" for those people to see a primary care doctor. "'The majority of patients who are frequent utilizers of the emergency department actually have insurance,' Rathlev said. 'They have a primary care physician, but they choose to come to the ER because they don't have access.'"

The U.S is short more than 16,000 primary care doctors, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. "About 26,000 new doctors enter the workforce each year, but only 6,500 enter primary care. One reason is that starting salaries for primary care doctors are a lot lower than for specialists - like in radiology, cardiology and urology" (Gupta, 8/18).

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