KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Demand For Doctors In Rural Areas And Primary Care Physicians Increases

The Dallas Morning News reports that rural health providers "are keeping a wary eye on proposed health care changes under debate in Congress. ... Democrats and Republicans from rural areas in the South and Midwest succeeded in getting some relief for the rural health care system written into the Senate and House bills under debate. That came in the form of higher Medicare reimbursements for some rural health programs and geographic areas, and added resources to recruit providers to rural areas. But neither the Senate nor House version goes far enough, says Danny Fernandez, manager of government affairs for the National Rural Health Association, which has so far declined to endorse either bill."

The newspaper examines the shortage of doctors in rural areas such as Falls County, Texas. "Attracting medical staff is increasingly difficult – despite loan forgiveness programs infused with additional cash this year, and higher federal reimbursement rates for rural clinics. Texas has only 68 primary-care doctors on average for every 100,000 people, compared with 81 for every 100,000 nationally, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas has 27 counties with no doctors at all. And the state also has the highest rate of uninsured – one in four. Meanwhile, the number of rural health clinics in Texas has fallen. ... Country dwellers have higher rates of hypertension, suicide among men, DUI arrests, and cigarette use, and two-thirds of fatal vehicle accidents occur on rural roads" (Kovach, 12/6).  

NPR also reports on the increasing demand for primary care doctors: "As law makers debate health care overhaul, they are also considering ways to increase the number of primary care doctors across the country. If the plan passes, it will cover 30 million additional Americans and some fear there aren't enough doctors to meet the anticipated need. Host Liane Hansen talks to Dr. Atul Grover, the chief advocacy officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges" (12/6).

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