USAToday has an alarming front page story today about a looming shortage of primary care physicians. From the story:
Longer days, lower pay, less prestige and more administrative headaches have turned doctors away in droves from family medicine, presumed to be the frontline for wellness and preventive-care programs that can help reduce health care costs. The number of U.S. medical school students going into primary care has dropped 51.8% since 1997, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)...
Considering it takes 10 to 11 years to educate a doctor, the drying up of the pipeline is a big concern to health-care experts. The AAFP is predicting a shortage of 40,000 family physicians in 2020, when the demand is expected to spike. The U.S. health care system has about 100,000 family physicians and will need 139,531 in 10 years. The current environment is attracting only half the number needed to meet the demand.
Rather than trying to remake the entire health care system, I suggest that the POTUS and Congress get to work on this very real problem. We need to induce more physicians to go into primary care, allow physician’s assistants and certified nurse practitioners to do more primary care—under the aegis of a physician, etc.
Reform is needed. But not the current omnibus approaches that try to remake the world and obscure issues, like the physician shortage. In other words, stop trying to do it all and focus!