Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

When 32 Million New Patients Look For A Doctor

With the passage of healthcare reform, an estimated thirty two million new patients will try to find primary care doctors. That’s not going to be so easy because we already face a shortage of primary care doctors and about 13,000 more will be needed to take care of those newly eligible for insurance.
 
According to the American Medical Association, there are about 312,000 primary care doctors practicing in the United States. That includes family medicine, general practice (GP), internal medicine, and pediatrics. (In addition, there are 43,000 ob-gyn’s who also may serve as primary care doctors.) The estimate that another 13,000 will be needed comes from a study done by the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care in partnership with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

 

Sixty five million Americans already live in areas that don’t have enough primary care doctors. And relief is not on the way anytime soon. It takes 5 to 8 years for a first year medical student to be trained as a primary care doctor. And the trend for budding doctors over the past decade has been away from primary care and towards more lucrative specialties.

 

The new legislation contains some incentives for entering into primary care. Medicare will pay a ten percent bonus to doctors spending most of their time giving primary care to the elderly. Medicaid payments will be increased by about 20 percent in 2013 and 2014 to reach 100 percent of the Medicare rate. This is important because about 16 million new patients will be eligible for Medicaid and many doctors currently don’t accept Medicaid because reimbursement is so low. In addition, primary care doctors will be paid extra for coordinating care among a team of doctors.

 

The new incentives are a good start but more is needed to increase our supply of primary care doctors. For this week’s CBS Doc Dot Com, my producer, Heather Tesoriero, and I traveled to a rural community in Indiana and discussed the shortage with an old-fashioned family practitioner named Dr. Jason Marker. When he started practice eight years ago he was $140,000 in debt from medical school loans. He works long hours and sees about 100 patients a week, but still owes $125,000. 

 

But Dr. Marker isn’t in it for the money and he’s not looking to heal only the well-healed. The day we visited him, a man walked five miles to his office from a homeless shelter. When I asked Dr. Marker what keeps him going after a rough day, he admitted that sometimes he wondered if it was all worth it. But then he added, “And then you go into the next room and you have a little old lady give you a big hug and you’re ready to go again.”

 

Click here to watch my interview with Dr. Marker.

 


Watch CBS News Videos Online


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

Caring For Winter Olympians In Sochi: An Interview With Team USA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gloria Beim

I am a huge fan of the winter Olympics partly because I grew up in Canada where most kids can ski and skate before they can run and partly because I used to participate in Downhill ski racing. Now that I m a rehab physician with a reconstructed knee I…

Read more »

How Do Hospital Executives Feel About Locum Tenens Agencies And Traveling Physicians?

I recently wrote about my experiences as a traveling physician and how to navigate locum tenens work. Today I want to talk about the client in this case hospital side of the equation. I ve had the chance to speak with several executives some were physicians themselves about the overall…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

Read more »

See all book reviews »