According to the Association of American Medical Colleges there will be a 160,000 doctor shortage by 2025 now that health reform has passed (there would have been 120,000 if it hadn't). The American Academy of Family Physicians predicts we will be 40,000 primary care doctors short over next 10 years.
BUT this isn't the whole story.
There will be a RELATIVE doctor shortage in every doctor's office in the country, as waiting lines grow longer, and more and more doctors drop insurance because they can't afford to pay their expenses. Even if you are one of the lucky 16 million with a new Medicaid card, you will soon find that more than 50 percent of doctors don't take it and the networks are drying up.
If you are a senior, you may find less and less doctors taking Medicare, especially as fewer services are approved, and reimbursements to doctors (especially specialists) continue to decline.
The kind of insurance that is being promoted and mandated by the health reform bill is too easy to overuse, clogging up doctor's offices and leading to more and more often unnecessary tests and procedures ordered by doctors who fear malpractice (and are desperate for tort reform).
And that's if you can get in to see a doctor! In Massachusetts, the ERs are just as crowded since universal health insurance passed in 2006, because of the statewide doctor shortage.
Many of the rural areas are underserved in terms of health care. Especially in Western states such as Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico, there are extensive health professional shortages. HPSAs have more than 65 million people living in them, and the number is growing. Simply expanding the number of doctors in the National Health Services Corp from 4,000 to 7,000, as the stimulus bill did, will do very little to address the problem.
There will definitely be a continued influx of nurse practitioners into the health care system. There are already close to 150,000, with more than 5,000 new graduates every year.
But though nurse practitioners are well trained and valuable, they do not represent a cure for the growing doctor shortage.
Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. He is a FOX News medical contributor and writes a health column for the LA Times, where he examines TV and movies for medical accuracy. Dr. Siegel is the author of a new ebook: Swine Flu; the New Pandemic. Dr. Siegel is also the author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear"and "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic."Read more at www.doctorsiegel.com
Marc Siegel MD is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Medical Center. He is a medical analyst and reporter for Fox News since 2008. His upcoming book concerns a mysterious viral outbreak.