HealthWatch: Elevating the Safety Net: Solve the Doctor Shortage

Health Watch

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — The Association of American Medical Colleges projects that the U.S. could have a shortage of up to 120,000 doctors by 2030. That could have a disproportionately negative effect on folks in low income neighborhoods. A public healthcare plan in Los Angeles has launched an ambitious program to recruit primary care doctors to work in vulnerable communities. They truly are the heroes of healthcare. Now, ‘Elevating the Safety Net’ will help patients and future physicians.
Los Angeles projects that it will be short 8,800 physicians in 12 years. That would be devastating. John Baackes, CEO, L.A. Care Health Plan, knew he had to do something.
“You either move the people to the doctors or you put some doctors where the people are, and we’re attempting to do the latter,” said Baackes.
He got his board to give five percent of L.A. Care’s reserve, about 31 million dollars, for a three-pronged attack on the doctor shortage. Acknowledging that medical school costs push students with huge debt into specialties that pay more, L.A. Care gave eight students full ride scholarships and recently added eight more. All are minorities wanting to give back.
“I definitely want to work in underserved communities, that’s the place I came from. My family still lives in South Central L.A., suffering from the different disparities that exist,” shared Parris Diaz, Charles R. Drew University Medical Student.
“It’s really personal in a sense that it’s what my parents, my parents right now even suffer through. I’m going to school to become a good doctor and potentially a community advocate,” stated Nguyen Pham, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Student.
Second, L.A. Care’s loan recruitment program will repay new physician debt up to 180,000 dollars if the doctor continues to serve in the safety net for three years. Third, network clinics get grants of 125,000 dollars for each new doctor recruited. Baackes says the program has already had impact because 32 new primary care doctors and clinics have applied.
“The payoff is a long way off, but we figure we’ve got to devote a portion of these resources to that as well,” Baackes said.
Baackes hopes his board will make the same 31 million dollar commitment to “Elevating the Safety Net” for the next five years. That would mean 40 more medical school scholarships and placement of up to 400 doctors. Thanks to billionaire, Robert F. Smith, all of the Morehouse college students graduating in 2019 will have their college debts paid off. And Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot, donated 100 million to pay tuition for every NYU medical student.
Contributors to this news report include: Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Dave Harrison, Editor; and Rusty Reed, Videographer.

REPORT #2653

BACKGROUND: The United States will face a shortage of physicians over the next decade, according to a physician workforce report released by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges). The projections show a shortage ranging between 61,700 to 94,700, with a significant shortage showing among many surgical specialties. The study, conducted by the Life Science division of the global information company IHS Inc., is an update to a 2015 report prepared on behalf of the AAMC and reflects feedback from the health care research community, as well as the most recent workforce data. “These updated projections confirm that the physician shortage is real, it’s significant, and the nation must begin to train more doctors now if patients are going to be able to receive the care they need when they need it in the near future,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD. By 2025, the study estimates a shortfall of between 14,900 and 35,600 primary care physicians. Non-primary care specialties are expected to experience a shortfall of between 37,400 and 60,300 physicians.

EFFECTS OF DOCTOR SHORTAGE: The main driver of the shortage is the United States’ aging population. With baby boomers retiring, the number of Medicare enrollees will double between 2000 and 2030. A large effect to the shortage of doctors will be the 32 million Americans who began receiving insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act of 2014. These previously-uninsured individuals will suddenly have the financial means to seek out doctor’s visits on a regular basis. The shortage will do the most damage in low-income and rural areas, while leaving some parts of the country relatively untouched. Minnesota ranks 13th among the states in physicians per capita. Furthermore, 51% of doctors who receive their undergraduate education in Minnesota practice there, beating the national average of 38.6%. The state also retains 44.2% of doctors who attend medical school there, near the nation’s 45.7% average. This is not to say Minnesota will dodge the doctor shortage bullet. A study found nearly half of Minnesota doctors are over 50, and the state’s retirement-age population is growing even faster than the national average.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?: Medicare funds most medical residencies, but their number has been limited since the 1996 balanced budget act. Obamacare includes funding for new primary care residencies—172 slots in the first year—and has incentives for working in underserved areas. Studies demonstrate nurse practitioners and physician assistants are medically competent enough to relieve some of the burden on doctors, and could take on an expanded role with less required supervision from medical doctors. With higher doctors’ earnings than anywhere else, the U.S. could easily attract more foreign doctors if we adjusted our very tight caps on their visas. The Conrad State 30 Program has proven successful in the past at bringing in foreign doctors and having them practice in medically underserved areas. Modern technology can better direct resources to underserved areas and expand the number of patients a doctor can treat. This technology can take the form of telemedicine, remote medical devices, and even e-mail with your doctor.

? For More Information, Contact:

John Baackes, L.A. Care CEO Penny Griego, Media Relations Elaine Schmidt, Sr Media Relations
(213) 694-1250 x4102 (213) 694-1250 x4560 (310) 267-8323

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