After Obamacare: a debate over primary care doctors


The 48 million Americans currently lacking health insurance will have a chance to sign up for medical coverage once Obamacare goes into effect. But will there be enough doctors to care for them?

One study predicts a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians in just seven years. And at least three medical schools are shaving off a full-year of their degree programs to get primary care physicians into the workforce sooner.

Dr. Robert Lahita, Chair of Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, told Jansing & Co., “It’s not a bad idea because the four-year school idea goes back to the turn of the last century, when Flexner said we should have, as the European system did, two years of basic science, two years of clinical science.” He said that the necessary training could be packed into three years by eliminating vacation time, concentrating on primary care, adding clinical training into the second and third years, and eliminating some electives.

Not all medical professionals agree.

Dr. Devi Nampiaparampi, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU, said she thought the last year of medical school is integral to a well-rounded medical education.

“The idea behind shortening medical school is that people will get their training during residency,” she said. “But the importance of those last two years of medical school is that people learn about other fields of medicine.  So they learn about the things that they’re not going into.”

Both doctors agreed, however, that medical student debt contributes to the shortage of primary care physicians.

“If people could forgive the debt somehow or find another way to shorten medical training, I think that would be more important because right now with this tremendous debt, people who have low incomes already, they may not choose to go into medicine even though they might be great doctors.” Dr. Nampiaparampi said. ”That’s a tremendous loss for us as a field.”