As the ink dries on President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare reform legislation, the nation is facing a physician shortage that will only worsen in coming years as 32 million Americans who previously lacked coverage obtain insurance coverage. A recent report predicts a shortfall of approximately 40,000 primary-care physicians over the next 10 years. A provision in the new law is intended to provide a boon to the profession, ranging from bonus payments to expanded community health centers that will pick up the slack.
For patients, one possible solution could be a medical home, which would improve access with a physician-led team of nurses, physician assistants and disease educators. “A lot of things can be done in the team fashion where you don’t need the patient to see the physician every three months,: according to Dr. Sam Jones of Fairfax Family Practice Centers in Virginia. “We think it’s the right thing to do. We were going to do this regardless of what happens with healthcare reform.”
Just 30 percent of American doctors are in primary care, with 65 million Americans living in areas designated as having a shortage of these physicians. More than 16,600 new physicians are needed to close this gap in these mostly rural regions, according to the federal government. One provision of the new healthcare bill is a 10 percent Medicare bonus for primary-care physicians who choose to practice in these underserved regions.