Updated 06/18/2012 08:35 PM
Primary care doctor shortage to get worse
If you've made an appointment with your primary care physician recently, it may have taken you a few days to get in to actually see the doctor. And you're not alone. There is a physician shortage across the country. As our Katie Gibas reports, it's only expected to get worse before it gets better.
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UNITED STATES -- As many as 60 million Americans don't have access to primary care.
"We have a problem already in terms of access to primary care and that's going to grow as the Affordable Care Act expands access," said Dr. David Satcher, a former Surgeon General
The Affordable Care Act is expected to bring in 20 to 30 million people who are currently uninsured. That means 30,000 primary care physicians will have to be hired by 2015. A task experts say is impossible.
"It's going to take a long time to really train enough primary care physicians. So people are looking at the primary care team and the role of nurse practitioners, physician assistants and others. We have to figure out how to divide up the care," said Satcher.
One of the biggest hurdles to recruiting primary care doctors is lower compensation compared to specialties.
"It's all about incentives. I think the reason that medical students have not been going into primary care areas is because the incentives have not been there. So I think if the Affordable Care Act does nothing else, hopefully, it will provide greater incentives for people to go into the field of primary care and stay in the field of primary care," said Satcher.
Experts say the country's health depends on primary care and figuring out how to make it work for everyone.
"Communities that have the highest density of primary care providers have better health outcomes. They have lower mortality rates and lower costs. And so if you look at it from the standpoint of cost, it's a concern. If you look at it from the standpoint of quality, it's a concern," said Satcher.
The encouraging news is according to the Association of American Medical colleges, students matching into primary care residencies jumped 20 percent between 2009 and 2011. But many more will be needed for the success of the Affordable Care Act.