PHYSICIAN SHORTAGE IN AMERICA 7
PhysicianShortage in America
Thedemand for doctors in the country is increasing, and most people arefinding it difficult to find a physician. While this was not the casesome decades ago, it is apparent that some factors have led to thereduction in the number of medical professionals. A high number ofindividuals have health insurance, and their visits to treatmentcenters are greater than before. On the other hand, the agingpopulation is growing, and a high number of people would requirehealth care services after several years. Equally significant, whilethe medical colleges continue training doctors, those who are willingto enter into the primary care field are few, while others areretiring. This paper will evaluate the physician shortage in thestate, and some of the measures that the government can take toaddress the crisis.
Whileplanning for medical education, policymakers controlled the supply ofdoctors since they expected them to be in excess. Hence, they limitedthe number of admission to medical schools. The experts also limitedthe number of positions, which were available for postgraduatetraining. (Hariharan, 2015, p. 46)
Oneaspect that illustrates the decrease in the number of doctors in thenation is the fact that it is now more difficult to find a primarycare physician compared to the past. The doctors available cannotsatisfy the demand for their services since many people requireservices such as oncology and endocrinology. It is, therefore,evident that the initial planning for the nation’s medical schoolsdid not take into account the possibility that the population in needof the physicians’ services would increase.
Thedoctor to patient ratio is drastically reducing, and it would bedifficult to find more physicians unless others are trained since thewait times are also increasing. The government should train moredoctors every year, improve the efficiency in hospitals, as well asreduce redundancies. (Grover, 2014, par 5)
Whilethe number of doctors trained in the medical colleges remainsconstant, there is also a concern that the aging population isrising. The elderly tend to develop many health complications, andthis is the reason that the expansion in their numbers implies thatthere should be a high supply of physicians. The baby boomersgeneration comprises of a large number of people that are aging, andtheir need for medical services will increase in the coming years(Fitzgerald, 2013, par 6). However, while the aging population isgrowing, the number of doctors has remained the same, and thisillustrates that individuals cannot access medical services as easilyas it was in the past.
In2011, Hofer and colleagues projected utilization after insuranceexpansion and demonstrated that insurance expansion will result in 15to 24 million additional primary care visits. Using other methods, itwas revealed that the expansion of insurance coverage among thepopulation will increase the primary care visits to 19.5 million. Theraise will require an additional 8000 general practitioners to solveit (Petterson et al., 2012, p. 507).
TheAssociation of American Medical Colleges estimates that by 2015,there will be a shortage of over 60,000 physicians. This number willdouble by 2025 because of the greater access to insurance and theaging population. Medicare officials predict that Medicare enrolmentwill increase by nearly 45% by 2025 (Niles, 2014, p. 182).
Thereduction in the number of physicians has also originated from theexpansion of health insurance across the country. Although thislegislation was intended to help people to access better medicalcare, it appears that it will put a strain on the physician shortagesin the country. Equally important, many physicians are also part ofthe baby boomer generation, and since they would retire soon, theycould further impact on the shortage that already exists (Fitzgerald,2013, par 6).
Stateswith strict liability laws cannot easily attract physiciansespecially those who may have higher exposure like the obstetricians,neurosurgeons and emergency doctors. A bill working its way throughthe House would raise the bar for suing an emergency room doctor(McGuire, 2013, par 3).
Thenumber of primary care physicians has not changed much following theimplementation of the Affordable Care Act. Before people go to see aspecialist, most of them have to get into preventive-care programsthat are managed by primary care physicians. However, the majority ofdoctors who have just come from training do not have any interest inventuring into primary care since they assume that they would receivebetter pay by specializing (Fitzgerald, 2013, par 8). The deficit ofdoctors in such fields, therefore, will continue to increase.Malpractice issues have also contributed to the shortage of doctors.Therapists give priority to health centers in places where the lawsare friendly, and they have low chances of facing litigationsemanating from malpractice.
Althoughthe shortage of physicians affects most parts of the country, someregions have much fewer doctors than others. According to somepolicymakers, the majority of the rural areas in the country do nothave sufficient doctors since the majority of the physicians are inthe cities (Bernstein, 2015, par 7). While these therapists mightprefer to work in the cities since this is where the affluent live,most of the people that need their services are in the rural areas.Moreover, a lot of individuals reside in the countryside afterretirement, and since this group of people primarily comprises of theelderly, they are the ones that need medical services the most.
In1994, Senator Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota, introducedlegislation that empowered states to grant waivers to foreign doctorson J-1 student visas. Healthcare workers from other nations can stayin the U.S. after completing their placement programs only if theyagree to work in the areas where doctors are in short supply(McAllester, 2007, par. 10).
Inthe light of the above, policymakers have to find alternatives inwhich they would address the physician shortage problem. Since manyphysicians in the nation do not have an interest in working in therural areas, those from other countries can provide their servicesthere. Besides, there should be a baseline plan that identifies thetargets of recruitment by specialty, and strategies on how to makethe practitioners work as part of a team (Henchey & Reilley,2010, par. 52).
Physiciansare few since the number of those who are trained cannot satisfy thedemand for their services. The baby boomers generation is also aging,and their need for medical services will increase in the comingyears. Besides, most physicians prefer not to work in states withstrict liability laws since malpractice issues have contributed tothe doctor shortage.
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