More States Coping With Primary Care Shortage

In a major feature, The Tennessean reports that the "nation is short 16,663 primary care doctors, and by 2025 that number will reach nearly 140,000, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians."

"Health-care reform is supposed to reward family doctors starting in 2013, when Medicare would give 10 percent bonuses to those who serve in areas with a doctor shortage. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says a shortage means having less than one doctor for a population of 2,000; Tennessee is currently short 291 primary care doctors."

"But some medical students, right now, decide not to enter primary care because of the current disproportionate pay rates. ... Primary care doctors earn about $150,000, whereas a specialty such as radiology can bring a $500,000 annual salary," and have better hours (Sanchez, 4/11).

The Florida Times-Union reports the problem is especially dire in poor and rural areas. "About 15 percent of Florida residents live in areas where there is a shortage of primary-care professionals; nationally, about 12 percent live under such circumstances. ... The state is No. 4 in population but No. 44 in the number of resident [physician] positions. Where a doctor's residency is located matters because studies show that three out of five doctors tend to stay put afterward … The reform law steers scores of unused slots Florida's way. That will help, [Tad Fisher of the Florida Academy of Family Physicians] said, but it may just be a drop in the bucket" (Cox, 4/12).

American Medical News: "In 2013 and 2014, Medicaid will increase pay to Medicare levels for primary care services delivered by primary care physicians. Unused residency slots will be shifted to programs that promise to train more primary care doctors and general surgeons. And a national work force commission will analyze the shortage problem and issue guidance for a competitive state grant program" (O'Reilly, 4/12).

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