A Tidal Wave of Healthcare Demand
There is a shortage of doctors all over America and it is getting worse for two reasons. Both reasons are on the demand side of the medical equation. President Obama’s new healthcare laws mean that many more people will be making tracks to their doctors and the second reason is the ‘baby boomer generation living longer and demanding more healthcare. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) report that even without Obamacare there will more than 100,000 too few physicians come 2025.
Come 2014 the new healthcare law will extend insurance coverage to around 30 million people. However it takes a decade to train a doctor. You do not need the intellect of a president to see that there is nothing either the federal government nor the AAMC can do to bridge the gap in the short term. The only two professional areas where supply exceeds demand is in plastic surgeons and dermatologists. What does that say about the US as a nation?
What happens now and what will happen increasingly is that the delivery of healthcare in America will simply take longer and conditions will get worse. Many professionals call it an ‘invisible problem’. Patients will have to travel further to consult a doctor, suffer on stretched waiting lists, pack into emergency rooms and probably go without care all together at times. The chief executive of the California Medical Association, with almost 35,000 members say “It results in delayed care and higher levels of acuity. People access the health care system through the emergency department, rather than establishing a relationship with a primary care physician who might keep them from getting sicker.”
The healthcare gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s will grow. Doctors are among the haves of course and nobody will blame them for wanting to work in the more attractive geographical areas. For example, take Riverside County in California. The population there has grown 42% in twelve years and is continuing to grow despite the turgid economic climate. The number of doctors providing healthcare in the area has not kept up with the population growth because doctors make more money and have a better quality of life across the county line in neighboring Orange County.
The federal government recommends that any area have between 60 and 80 primary care medics for every 100,000 people and between 85 and 105 specialist practitioners. Riverside and the surrounding regions, excluding Orange County of course, has around 40 generalists and 70 specialists to each 100,000 residents. At the same time all across America, less than half of the primary care clinics are taking on new patients since ‘08. This makes it difficult for poor patients to participate in healthcare even though they are now eligible for Medicaid.
[box type="note"]Primary healthcare providers all over America are bracing themselves for a tidal wave of demand on a system that is already overheating. They are working hard to speed up patient processing procedures, cramming more consultations on to already full doctors’ schedules and of course competing with everyone else to recruit more physicians.[/box]