Physician Shortages: Why it is Happening and What is Being Done


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Medicaid expansion accounts for the majority of sign-ups under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With the primary care physician shortages, the newly insured may not be able to see a primary care physician. Not only that, a large number of primary care physicians refuse to see Medicaid patients.

Many Physicians do Not Want to See Medicaid Patients 

Warnings about the number of physicians that refuse to see Medicaid patients and the lack of primary care physicians in general has been circulating for quite some time. Approximately 30 percent of physicians will not see Medicaid patients because of the extremely low reimbursement rate.

ACA Provides Temporary Funding

Medicaid reimbursement is usually about 33 percent lower than Medicare’s rates are. The Affordable Care Act is providing temporary funding to even out the reimbursement rates for Medicaid and Medicare until the end of 2014.

The Health Care Authority

The Health Care Authority manages the Medicaid program in the state of Washington. They, too, are wondering what is going to happen once the reimbursement period ends. The Associated Press recently published an article stating that the Health Care Authority may collaborate with the Washington State Medical Association and the University of Washington to research the effect this temporary rate increase has had on physicians accepting Medicaid patients. The Legislature will be presented with the results of the study prior to the next session.

Imbalance between Primary Care Physicians and Specialists

Currently, the health care system in the United States is lacking due to the imbalance between the numbers of specialists versus primary care physicians.

There are approximately 6,000 primary care physicians in the state of Washington. The Office of Financial Management conducted a study in 2012 to find out whether this number of physicians could feasibly care for those individuals who were issued insurance under the ACA. A definitive conclusion was never met.

A report from the U.S. Senate emphasizes this problem:

  • Approximately 25 percent of primary care physicians in the U.S. are about to retire.
  • While 50 years ago nearly 50 percent of all of the physicians in the U.S. practiced primary care, today less than 33 percent do.
  • Of the 2011 medical school graduates, 93 percent chose not to practice primary care. Graduates are choosing to specialize because they can earn more money.

The ACA Attempts to Increase Primary Care Physicians with Training, Scholarships and Graduate Positions

The ACA emphasizes preventative care so that fewer people will need treatment for more serious issues. Therefore, primary care physicians are essential for the act to succeed. For this reason, more money is being given to assist with training; the ACA is offering more scholarships and graduate positions for primary care physicians.

Physicians can Travel to Areas in the U.S. with Substantial Shortages

Physicians interested in locum tenens assignments have the opportunity to travel to various parts of the country through companies like Locum Jobs Online. Many of the positions listed on sites like this offer physicians a higher pay rate with housing benefits. These jobs usually last about 13 weeks, depending on each facility’s needs.

Author: Locum Jobs Online

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