Health Care Reform and a Doctor Shortage
A Shortage of Doctors
Now that Congress has passed a health-care reform bill of some kind and it is signed into law, we could see, about 30 million uninsured people who will suddenly find themselves access to doctors. The health-care overhaul is certain to add to the problem by flooding doctors’ offices with new insured consumers looking for healing. One only has to do the math and see that when giving millions of people insurance, you will find a shortage of doctors.
Not Training Enough Doctors
Congress placed a limit in 1997 on the number of medical residencies in order to hold down Medicare costs. Medical residencies are hospital training that is required for all doctors. The number is limited because Medicare pays for most of that training. However, even without health-care reform our nation is experiencing a doctor shortfall because of an aging population and their demand for medical specialists.
Medicare Isn't Big Enough
Funding for residencies through Medicare was setup in 1965 when the U.S. Government was about to extend health coverage to about 19 million Americans. Unfortunately, Medicare has grown to 45 million last year and the cap was placed to control spending. Currently Medicare pays about $100,000 a year per residency, at a total cost of about $9 billion. The Medicare cap affects about 90,000 residencies at U.S. hospitals.
Doctor Demand Outgrowing Supply
Medical schools have tried to accommodate by adding 3,000 first time students by 2018, but the cap on residency has not been lifted. Without that cap lifted, the demand will continue to out pace the supply. According to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, there are nearly 17,000 fewer primary care doctors than what was required for most urban and rural areas. By the year 2025 many experts expect that number to rise by as many as 160,000.
The Cap Needs Reform
Many within Congress are trying to get amendments submitted to the health-care bill to increase the residency cap. Adding about 15,000 residencies to that cap would cost Medicare currently about $1.5 billion. However, hope is thin on the amendment passing as Congress is wrestling on keeping the total cost of the health-care reform bill down.
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