There is widespread concern about how the healthcare industry is going to meet the demand for primary care services once the Affordable Care Act is in full effect.
In 2010, The Association of American Medical Colleges estimated that the nation will have a shortage of approximately 21,000 primary care physicians in 2015. Without action, experts project a continued primary care shortfall since there will be a growing patient base, due to people living longer and a decline in the number of medical students choosing primary care as their focus.
Seeing the glaring need for action, the Obama Administration announced $250 million in new funding through the Affordable Care Act to expand the primary care workforce. As part of the Prevention and Public Health Fund, and combined with earlier spending through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the funding aims to prepare our healthcare system to meet the demand for new healthcare workers by training and placing more than 16,000 new doctors, nurses, and other professionals in the field over the next five years.
But will it actually happen? Even if all 16,000 new primary care providers are brought into the fold, it’s still not enough, according to projections.
Fast forward to 2012, and a study published in the most recent issue of The Annals of Family Medicine says the U.S. needs 52,000 additional primary care physicians by 2025 to meet the growing demand.
Study author Stephen M. Petterson, Ph.D. reports that when they consider current projections for growth in healthcare professionals, there will still be a shortfall of 8,000 primary care physicians. That’s a three percent increase in the current workforce.
The study’s authors calculated their finding by dividing the total number of projected visits by the current number of annual visits per physician.
States Most Vulnerable to Primary Care Shortages
Obviously, each state has its own set of pertinent variables that affect its vulnerability to primary care shortages, most importantly the ratio of uninsured residents to current number of primary care physicians. The 10 states that will need the biggest workforce increase are New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Florida, Texas, and California. Texas and California are on the high end, with a projected need for a seven percent and five percent increase respectively.