Demand for primary care will swell in the near future, thanks to millions of uninsured patients flooding insurance exchanges. But physician shortages will be especially pronounced in certain parts of the country, according to a recently released study.
The upswing in primary care demand will translate to the need for about 7,200 new primary care providers, a 2.5 percent uptick from the current supply, according to a study by researchers at the University of Chicago and HHS' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. But the demand is expected to be much greater in specific regions, as about 7 million Americans live in areas where primary care demand may exceed supply by more than 10 percent.
Variations exist throughout the country because some regions have greater populations of uninsured as well as smaller primary care capacity. Those with the biggest projected shortages have large immigrant populations, including Texas (with about 900, or 5 percent, more primary care providers needed), Florida (590, or 3.5 percent) and California (1,100, or 3.4 percent), according to the study.
Policymakers must find ways to loosen policies to allow doctors to see more patients, or to use more physician assistants and nurse practitioners to relieve the burden.
"The results of this study suggest that promoting and refining policies related to the distribution of primary care providers and community health centers may be as important as policies aimed at increasing the overall supply of primary care providers," researchers wrote.
Here are some other highlights:
- About 29 million newly insured people are expected to need care in 2014, according to the study, translating to about 25.7 million additional primary care visits per year.
- Some 235 primary care service areas will have a demand for PCPs more than 10 percent greater than the 2010 supply. In total, that area has a population of 6.95 million, about 2.2 percent of the entire U.S population.
- Communities with the greatest projected need for more primary care providers include Pahokee, Fla. (46.8 percent), Shepherd, Texas (64.1 percent), and Los Fresnos, Texas (75.5 percent).