Healthcare reform is meant to provide coverage to many uninsured patients, helping them to get much-needed treatment. However, that is only true if there are enough doctors to cover this increased patient population. The issue was recently discussed by the New York Times.
Already, there is a growing shortage of doctors in the United States. With the influx of new patients, this problem will only grow. The Association of American Medical Colleges has noted that by 2015, there will be 62,900 less doctors than are needed in this country. Just ten years later, that number is estimated to double. Even without changes in healthcare laws, there will still be a gap between patients and providers. The population is aging, which means they'll require more physician visits, and even with current Medicaid standards those who are eligible are often left on waiting lists for appointment times. Resorting to emergency room visits to take care of routine procedures clogs up the system even more. How, then, can patients take advantage of the increased access to healthcare if there are no providers who are able to treat them?
One solution is to increase training opportunities. While it will not immediately correct the problem, since training takes a number of years, it will set the groundwork for the future. Another positive change would be to increase the recruitment to areas of need, both medically and geographically. Primary care is not increasing in numbers as quickly as other specialties, possibly because of pay discrepancies. Also, there are many under-served regions of the country because of geographic location. Physicians need to be recruited to these areas because patients often go untreated, not being able to make the long journey to their nearest healthcare professional, if they can even get an appointment. By working toward a better solution, the health of this country can become better and the overall healthcare industry can succeed.