Landmark health reforms will not only bring health care to the uninsured, they will bring more patients to doctors. Lots more patients. Forty-six million of them, all vying to find a Primary Care Physician (PCP).
In some parts of the country PCP’s are already in short supply, so the newly insured will be an extra strain on an already overstretched system.
Recently published reports predict a shortfall of roughly 40,000 PCP’s over the next decade. Not enough doctors are going into family medicine these days. In fact, less than 30% of U.S. doctors practice primary care. The better pay, better hours and higher profile of other specialties are proving too much of a lure.
“It’s going to be harder to get appointments to see a physician” predicts Dr. Sam Benjamin, host of “Primary Care” on News/Talk 92-3 KTAR.
Provisions in the new health care bill aim to reverse this tide by offering bonus payments to those physicians prepared to expand community health services and offer them in areas where the greatest shortfalls exist.
The new law also puts emphasis on wellness care over sickness care, with policies that encourage physicians to try novel programs such as “patient-centered medical homes.”
Pilot tests of medical homes, through the American Academy of Family Physicians and Medicare, are under way around the country. Initial results suggest they can improve quality but it’s not clear if they save money.
Only time will tell.
In the meantime, Word on Health welcomes your suggestions on how to solve the problem of too many patients and too few doctors. Winning answers will be hand delivered to a large white building, just down the road.