HEALTH

ACA in effect could mean shortage of doctors

Decrease Increase Text size

When health insurance kicks in for millions of Americans through Obamacare, it may spell problems for medical services. The spike in demand could mean a shortage of doctors.

"We have an aging population, we will have more people who have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and both of those point to a greater demand in health services," said Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan, professor of health policy at George Washington University School of Public Health.

"There's no doubt that as the ACA becomes more effective and more people are covered, the first stop for most people will be primary care. They need a check-up, they need someone to examine this ache or that pain," said Mullan.

In a report by the Annals of Family Medicine, the U.S. will need 52,000 more primary care physicians by 2025. Population growth is a big factor driving up the number.

Meanwhile, experts say there's also an existing problem: inconsistency in the distribution of doctors across the country.

"Physicians tend to go where the living's better. As all highly skilled workers, they have choices, and that tends to be urban. They tend to work in communities that are better insured or have more money," said Mullan.

The D.C. metro region has some of the highest physician-to-patient ratio, but with healthcare in transition, even the local community won't be immune to change.

"The shortages are most easily felt by waiting times," said Mullan.

Local residents like Justin George said they're surprised to learn that another healthcare hurdle is on the horizon.

"I didn't realize it was going to be this soon. So that's a big fear for me," said George.

But before we get to that point, the Affordable Care Act has set aside money for training and expanding services in rural communities. Some suggest that lawmakers look into working with non-physicians, like nurse practitioners to meet the pending demand.

The good news? The interest in medicine is still there. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, there were more medical school applicants in 2013 than ever before.

Recommended For You