Obama Addresses Shortage of Primary Care Doctors at Town Hall Meeting

August 14, 2009

President Obama continued to talk about his goal of overhauling the US healthcare system as a town hall meeting held this past Tuesday in Portsmouth, NH, a discussion that included the topic of the nation’s “severe shortage” of primary care physicians.

President Obama continued to talk about his goal of overhauling the US healthcare system as a town hall meeting held this past Tuesday in Portsmouth, NH, a discussion that included the topic of the nation’s “severe shortage” of primary care physicians.

President Obama’s plan would require all Americans to have health insurance, a plan that has left many medical professionals and citizens alike concerned about who will be caring for all of the newly insured patients if the bill were to pass. In his town hall meeting Tuesday, Obama addressed these concerns, stating that he is aware of the lack of primary care physicians but that he has no set way to go about addressing the great demand that will arise should universal healthcare be adopted.

“I don’t have a simple solution for this,” he said, noting “constant” nurse and primary care physician shortages, according to a live blog that covered the president’s meeting. “They should be the front lines of the medical profession.”

Massachusetts adopted a mandate that began on July 1, 2007 that requires all state residents to “obtain and maintain health insurance that meets minimum coverage requirements.” Individuals who could not prove that they had obtained health insurance by December 31, 2007 lost their personal income tax exemption when their 2007 income taxes were filed. People in the state who still had failed to obtain health insurance in 2008 were fined for every month that they went without. Under President Obama’s plan, a similar system of fines and penalties would be adopted for those who do not obtain health insurance.

At the town hall meeting, President Obama did suggest a number of options that may encourage more doctors and/or medical students to become primary care physicians.

One “of the things we can do is to reimburse doctors who are providing preventive care and not just the surgeon who provides care after somebody is sick,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal. In addition, he suggested “helping pay for medical education for those who are willing to go into primary care.”

To review the part of the House bill on healthcare reform that addresses a “primary care training and capacity building program,” click here.