No Easy Solution to Physician Shortage

While the current cap on residency programs could cause the physician shortage to swell to 130,000 there are no easy solutions to the problem.

While the caps on residency programs could cause the physician shortage to swell to 130,000 there are no easy solutions to the problem, according to a Bloomberg article.

Right now the physician shortage is slightly over 15,000, but when millions of new patients enter the system with new coverage from the Affordable Care Act, the number will jump. Including specialists, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) expects the shortage will climb to 130,000 by 2025.

Bloomberg reported:

“The bottleneck will likely affect efforts at health-care reform, spreading doctor shortages that now largely affect rural communities to all parts of the country in the next decade. Patients will probably have to wait to see doctors if they can find room at all, undermining the prospect of cutting health costs through more preventative care.”

AAMC had called for a 30% enrollment increase in 2006 to meet the projected 90,000 physician shortage by 2020. However, no matter how many more students enroll, the problem remains that residency programs, which are mostly federally funded, to train new doctors have a capped acceptance rate.

According to Bloomberg, the cost of training one new resident is about $145,000, adding:

“There’s no easy solution. Boosting the number of taxpayer- financed training slots beyond 85,000 would require Congress to allocate money at a time of contentious budget debates. Adding private financing means tapping new sources of cash, such as from health insurers. Importing doctors from overseas is controversial. And training doctors is long-term work, taking as many as 10 years.”

However, a new bill was proposed at the beginning of August by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.). The “Physician Shortage Reduction and Graduate Medical Education Accountability and Transparency Act” would expand Medicare-supported residency training positions by 15,000.