Physician Shortage to Quadruple Within Decade, AAMC Says
With healthcare reform, 32 million more Americans will have access to medical insurance and 36 million to Medicare, the report says.
"As more people get insured, they are going to seek out the care they probably should have been getting all along but haven't been able to necessarily access. That's why those numbers look worse in the next 10 years than we previously had estimated," Grover says.
Perhaps more significantly, the demand is increasing because of the growing population of seniors, estimated to grow by 37%, according to the Census Bureau.
"The overall reason for the physician shortage has [less] to do with reform; it has more to do with the aging U.S. population," Grover says. "As we get this silver tsunami of baby boomers coming at us over the next 10 years or so, what you're going to see is their need for healthcare is going to be much higher on a per-capita basis than younger adults."
Older persons often require more specialty care, especially as the chances of cancer increases with age. In addition, there are more treatment options available to older Americans to prolong their lives, thus requiring more care.
With this dark forecast of numbers of too few physicians to care for too many people, how should health leaders adapt? AAMC offers the following solutions:
1. Increased federal support of residency programs through Medicare, the primary source of graduate medical education funding. Since the Balanced Budget Act passed in 1997, teaching hospitals are restricted to a capped number of resident physicians they can claim under Medicare reimbursement. Teaching hospitals therefore accept more residents to accommodate community needs beyond that maximum limit, totaling 7,000 residents of which teaching hospitals pay for out of pocket, according to Grover.
2. Medicare support for 15% more residency training (about 15,000 residency slots). Seven thousand new medical school students are expected to graduate every year, states the report. Additional subsidized graduate medical education could add on 4,000 more physicians every year.
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