Supply Won’t Meet Growing Demand for Primary Care

By Kaitlyn Krasselt and Jayne O’Donnell, USA TODAY. 

Federally funded programs will add at least 2,300 new primary care practitioners by the end of 2015, but the funding for at least one of those programs is set to expire at the same time, contributing to a massive shortage of doctors available to treat patients — including those newly insured through the Affordable Care Act and Medicare.

The U.S. is expected to need 52,000 more primary care physicians by 2025, according to a study by the Robert Graham Center, which does family medicine policy research. But funding for teaching hospitals that could train thousands more of these doctors expires in late 2015.

Population growth will drive most of the need for family care doctors, accounting for 33,000 additional physicians, the study says. The aging population will require about 10,000 more. The Affordable Care Act is expected to increase the number of family doctors needed by more than 8,000, the study says.

Farzan Bharucha, a health care strategist with consulting firm Kurt Salmon, says the ACA should have focused more on the primary care shortage “because we already knew there was a problem — and we knew implementation of ACA would potentially make it worse.”

Health and Human Services spokeswoman Erin Shields Britt says continuing to build the primary care workforce will take time, but she notes President Obama’s budget working its way through Congress has several new ways to expand the primary care workforce, which includes nurse practitioners and pediatricians. The ACA, she says, significantly increases the number of primary care providers in underserved areas and increases Medicare and Medicaid payment for services delivered by primary care practitioners

ACA funding that added 600 new primary care residencies was part of a five-year investment that expires at the end of 2015, eliminating the chance to produce hundreds more doctors each year.

But many agree far more needs to be done.

June 30, 2014

Editor: Although the publication date of an article may not be current the information is still valid.


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