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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why demand for doctors is expected to rise

The number of physicians as a percentage of population is expected to decline in the coming years per data released by organizations including the U.S. Census Bureau and the Association of American Colleges. Of contributing factors to this shortage, the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act is believed to be among those with the most negative impact according to the Heritage Foundation. Such an unaccounted for decline in the number of doctors will reduce the quality of future healthcare services despite a rise in the availability of that lower-quality care.

A reason the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” will lower doctor to patient ratios is workload. According to Health Affairs, a monthly journal that compiles and publishes research on healthcare policy and services, the workload of doctors is going to rise 29 percent between 2005 - 2025. Moreover, also per Health Affairs, the U.S. population will rise 17 percent by 2025 whereas the population of individuals over age 65 will increase 73 percent. In this sense, population changes in addition to legislated increases to demand for healthcare services will add to the doctor shortage.
Demand for U.S. doctors
The Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare is thought to be a factor in demand
Difference in medicaid reimbursement rates is another related variable that will affect the availability of healthcare services according to Avik Roy of Forbes. For example, according to Roy, in 2008 the state of California paid primary care physicians 38 percent of what private insurers would  as compared to 112 percent in Alaska. Part of the reason for lower reimbursement rates are strained state budgets according to the Floridian Governor, Rick Scott via U.S. News. Additionally, according to Michael Tanner of the New York Post, a Doctor Patient Medical Association poll predicted as many as 83 percent of physicians will scale back or close their healthcare practices because of Obamacare.

Even though the availability of doctors is forecast to decline under the new healthcare law, specific regions of the United States will be affected more than others. Moreover, it is believed by the year 2025, a shortfall of over 100,000 physicians will exist according to the New York Times in reference to an American Medical Association study. Furthermore, according to a PRWeb release referring to a national healthcare survey performed by Jackson Healthcare, only 26 percent of doctors already do not accept Medicaid, and 36 percent of those who do, will no longer accept new Medicaid patients.

There are solutions to a worsening doctor shortage. An increase in the number of medical professional work visas issued each year is one such way. Other solutions include training incentives for physicians such as higher tax deductions on student loan payments, and caps on the amount of liability insurance doctors pay under the Affordable Healthcare Act. According to Advanstar Communication, Inc., an increase in doctor training is at least helping relieve the situation as the AAMC has reported medical school enrollment to be on track for a 30 percent increase by 2016.

Image license: USGov-PD