KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Reform Will Create Demand For Primary Care Physicians, Rural Docs Especially Squeezed

The Associated Press: "Primary care physicians already are in short supply in parts of the country, and the landmark health overhaul that will bring them millions more newly insured patients in the next few years promises extra strain. ... Recently published reports predict a shortfall of roughly 40,000 primary care doctors over the next decade, a field losing out to the better pay, better hours and higher profile of many other specialties. Provisions in the new law aim to start reversing that tide, from bonus payments for certain physicians to expanded community health centers that will pick up some of the slack (Neergaard, 3/28).

CNN profiles Dr. Downs Little, "a primary care internist, [who] closed his Lottsburg Va.-based practice on Dec. 31. Lottsburg, located in Northumberland County, is in one of the nation's designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA). ... Up until last year, Little said his 'old-fashioned' practice had stayed competitive with the bigger hospitals in the area even though more than 70% of his patients were on Medicare. Medicare typically pays doctors significantly lower than private insurers for comparable services." The recession caused a drop in higher-paying private patients." 

CNN reports "the shortage of rural physicians is a 'huge problem,' said Dr. Howard Rabinowitz, professor of family and community medicine at Thomas Jefferson University's Medical College. 'About 20% of the population lives in rural areas but only 9% of physicians practice there,'" said Rabinowitz (Kavilanz, 3/28).


Related, earlier KHN stories:

Primary Care Shortage Could Crimp Overhaul (Mertens, 3/22)
Doctor Shortage Fuels Nurses' Push For Expanded Role (Villegas, 2/22)

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