I've written about the primary care shortage before so I am happy to see the New York Times feature it today.
In Massachusetts they have mandated insurance coverage for everyone (Universal coverage) but the unintended consequence is that these newly insured people cannot find a doctor. There are not enough primary care doctors available and the ones that practice in clinics and offices are full. Taking on more patients just leaves less time for everyone and makes for harried, rushed medicine.
The article is a must read but here are some highlights for you ADD readers.
- With the aging population, we will need 40% more primary care doctors by 2020
- Presidential candidates on both sides have stressed the importance of primary care but...
- There are no plans to overhaul an unfair payment system that undervalues primary care
- The majority of general practitioners are aging and planning retirement over the next decade
- President Bush has proposed eliminating $48 million in federal support for primary care training programs
- New doctors training in primary care have dropped by more than half over the past decade
- Of those small numbers in training, even fewer (1/16 at Tufts, 4/28 at U Mass) actually plan to practice primary care
"Dr. Atkinson, 45, said she paid herself a salary of $110,000 last year. Her insurance reimbursements often do not cover her costs, she said.
“I calculated that every time I have a Medicare patient it’s like handing them a $20 bill when they leave,” she said. “I never went into medicine to get rich, but I never expected to feel as disrespected as I feel. Where is the incentive for a practice like ours?”"