Massive primary health care service shortages could loom on the horizon

Updated

While millions of Americans will gain greater access to healthcare thanks to the Affordable Care Act, there may not be enough doctors for the newly insured, reported msnbc’s Melissa Harris-Perry on Sunday.

On her show, also called Melissa Harris-Perry, she argued the shortage of primary care physicians is a looming threat to health care access. Here are the statistics she cited to make her case:

  • There are 5,721 primary care doctor shortage areas in the U.S., and 54.4 million Americans live in those regions. 
  • Currently, there is a shortage of 15,230 primary care doctors in the U.S. By 2015, there may be a deficit of 62,900 doctors.
  • There could be a shortage of up to 130,000 physicians across all specialties by 2025.

Harris-Perry explained that the the shortfall is largely due to legislative and economic factors. For example: the massive cost in both time and money it takes to become a doctor. Potential doctors have to spend a minimum of ten years training, and the average medical school student pays $50,000 a year. Meanwhile, $162,000 is the average amount of debt with which medical students can expect to graduate.

While $160,000 is the average salary pediatricians and family medical physicians earn on a yearly basis, other doctors—like radiologists and orthopedists—make an average of $315,000 annually.

“Is there any wonder that only 37% of physicians practice primary care medicine?” Harris-Perry asked. She added that by 2025, the total number of Medicare recipients is predicted to rise to a jaw-dropping 73.2 million.

“Yes, having access to health care is essential,” she said. “However, the factors taxing the system are forcing doctors to decide against serving the least among us for more lucrative careers. We must put aside partisanship to ensure that those who have gained access will also have the doctors to take care of them.” 

Massive primary health care service shortages could loom on the horizon

Updated