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Physician Shortage to Quadruple Within Decade, AAMC Says

Christopher Cheney, for HealthLeaders Media, January 4, 2011

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.

Possible solutions
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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5 comments on "Physician Shortage to Quadruple Within Decade, AAMC Says"


Carlos Ming (6/25/2011 at 12:42 PM)
You know who is pushing this "physician shortage" comic book story over and over again? Hospitals and insurance companies. THERE IS NO SHORTAGE. The golden dream of health care corporations is for there to be an OVERPOPULATION of physicians. This menas more competetion and LESS REIMBURSEMENT, so these gargoyles can have even more profit. Take a look at countries like spain, or argentina in which primary care phsyicians make even less money than people who didn't even finish a college education.

Layton Lang (5/11/2011 at 4:09 PM)
There is no physician shortage!!!! The figures are false. The problem is that we have plenty of working physicians; they are not geographically distributed correctly. The report fails to take into account all of the foreign trained physicians coming into the country. Lastly, the article assumes we are all going to practice medicine the same as we have been doing for 40 years. As we know, due to the glut of physician labor, patients receive more care than they actually need because of the competition for business.

Terry Brown, D.O. (1/20/2011 at 11:46 AM)
Did this include D.O.s as well as MDs. Anybody know? D.O.s of course have all the same specialties as MDs.