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Challenges in Serving the Newly Insured

April 27, 2010
1:06 pm

An interesting, and troubling, piece ran recently in the Wall Street Journal.  The article highlighted one of the major shortcomings of the newly enacted health reform law.  This article, “Medical Schools Can’t Keep Up,” said covering 32 million more people who haven’t had health insurance outpaces the capacity of the number of doctors we have to attend the new total number of patients.  As well, the medical education system won’t be able to produce enough new doctors to meet the demand.

Estimates predict a deficit of doctors potentially reaching a 150,000 gap by 2025.  The United States currently has 954,000 physicians.  The area in which doctors are needed is in primary care.  Yet, that’s the practice fewer medical students have been selecting.  Medical training programs have begun to push primary care, but the supply pipeline is definitely behind the curve.  The new health law only adds to that problem.

Plus, everyone must train in a medical residency program in order to lawfully practice medicine.  But residency slots are limited, and the law’s cuts to Medicare, which pays for medical training programs, don’t help.

Unfortunately, all Americans will feel the effects of this physician shortfall.  The Journal reported:  “A shortage of primary-care and other physicians could mean more-limited access to health care and longer wait times for patients.”

The Wall Street Journal article reminds us that healthcare coverage doesn’t necessarily equal healthcare access and that more work remains to be done to fulfill the vision of healthcare reform.

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