USA Faces A “Doctor Gap” By 2020

As someone who has worked with the provider community since 1997, I know the trouble that they have increasingly faced with private and public reimbursements going down while their expenses continue to rise.

One of the biggest flaws in Obamacare is the lack of attention to physican reimbursemenet and the Medicare payment cuts (now planned for 27% in 2013) that Congress has had to fix at least once a year for the past five years.

Today, the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch has a disturbing story about the shortage in physicians that America faces in less then eight years from now.

As the country ages and more than 30 million new patients enter the health care system under the Affordable Care Act, experts predict that soon, there won’t be enough doctors for everyone who wants to see one—a shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2020, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. To meet the demand, a surging class of almost-but-not-quite-doctors known as physician assistants, are stepping up to fill the M.D.’s shoes.

As the WSJ article mentions, physician assistants are the only hope to make up the “doctor gap”.

There are now more than 100,000 certified physician assistants in the U.S., up 34% since 2008, and while the employment prospects for most fields remain bleak, the Department of Labor forecasts the number of physician assistant jobs will grow another 30% by 2020. The number of nurse practitioners, which have similar training and duties, is also expected to rise.

Though physician assistants don’t go to medical school, experts say they can fill about 80% of a doctor’s role. They can prescribe medication in all 50 states, run medical practices when the supervising doctor is in another part of the country and even help perform endoscopies and heart procedures.

We are facing a major turning point in how patients

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