Physician Shortage Critical for 7 Million Americans – Or Is It?

Forget the problem of health insurance.

For seven million Americans, the bigger problem is the lack of primary care physicians (PCPs).

And health care reform’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) could make it worse.

Dire Straits?

A study published in Health Affairs predicts critical shortages of primary care physicians after the enactment of PPACA’s health insurance requirements.

Researchers identify five states that will be hit the hardest, as illustrated below.




And here I sit in Idaho. I cannot say I’m surprised.

I have had quite the transition in health insurance when I moved from California to Idaho.

The lack of competition in the health insurance industry and the low rates paid to Idaho physicians makes it difficult for health care professionals to survive.

Study Findings

According to the study, two factors affect the above states more than other states.

  1. The number of uninsured, (which should change in 2014 with PPACA’s insurance requirements)
  2. The existing capacity in the states for primary care services

The researchers assume most states will be able to handle the increased demand, and offered the following estimates.


PCP Infographic

What Physician Shortage?

In the same health journal, Health Affairs, is a study by a mathematician who argues “the sky is not falling” on primary care.

As reported in a Washington Post article, Linda Green, who the article states has been studying the health care system for decades, believes changes in the delivery of health care will support increases in primary care services.

According to the article, the view of the number-cruncher is two trends change the landscape.

The first is physician pooling, in which doctors join forces, creating larger organizations.

The second factor is the rise in the number of mid-level providers, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

Isn’t that just like the health care industry?

  • One side presents study results
  • Only to have another entity dismiss the findings as false

Reminds you of the debate over who should and should not have mammograms.

Bottom line – no one knows with any certainty what the fallout from health care reform will be or how health care will be delivered in the future.

It’s enough to make you sick.

Personally, I’d rather work on being the healthiest I can be. You in?


Helping you Keep it simple, clear & uniquely yours – contact me for help with your business writing needs. Visit my business blog, Simply stated business.


Icons in infographic from BigStock Photo

Notice of Disclaimer –Cathy Miller is not an attorney or health care provider and cannot provide legal or health care advice. The information provided is for your general background only, and is not intended to constitute legal or health care advice as to your specific circumstances. We recommend you review legislation with legal counsel and visit your physician for health care issues.



  1. Sharon Talbot says

    This was a very timely and interesting post. It’s something that I have grumbled about, discussed with at least three PCP’s over the last several years and that is now causing me much stress. In addition, I cannot help but wonder how much worse the current sequestration disaster and resulting health-care cuts will make an already unacceptable situation.

    I live in Massachusetts, which is often (laughably) touted in the Great Healthcare Debate as a “model” to emulate. It is not. Despite a glut of medical schools here and other programs for mid-level providers, our access to them once they become practitioners, is severely hobbled by the administration and rules in the state governing Medicaid and insurance in general. I suppose you can guess whom I blame for this in large part.

    My current PCP, for instance, is only open four days a week and is overbooked, leaving most of his patients’ care to an often absent NP and a couple medical assistants! His office is woefully understaffed, struggles to keep up with new laws such as medical records formatting and even faxing. They routinely mess up referrals, lab orders and other important parts of patient care. And yet hundreds of aging, low-income hill town people seek him out since he is the easiest doctor to reach! Should it really come down to that? No.

    One thing that is certain, I think, in the future of health care is that standardization of health care must be sorted out and rigorously applied by the Federal government, as has been happening in other areas such as education. This will necessitate bipartisan work and failing that, executive orders. Johnson did it with Civil Rights; why can’t Obama do this with Patient Rights?

    I look forward to any reply or thoughts you have.

    • Cathy says

      Hi Sharon: Thank you for your insight. I am not a fan of politics, but I do appreciate hearing from someone who has experienced Massachusetts health care first-hand.

      I believe until we have personal accountability, our health care system will always be broken. Someone smarter than me expressed it as managing health instead of managing disease.

      As someone who has been a health care provider, an insurance professional, and a consumer, it boggles my mind how each of those entities, who rely on one another for services, can be so far apart in managing health.

      I used to say I wish I had the magic pill that is the answer to health care, but then someone would probably repackage it at triple the cost.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, Sharon. I do appreciate it.

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