Demand for PCPs exceeds supply by at least 10% for 7 million Americans

February 25, 2013

Numerous studies have highlighted shortages in primary care and have predicted even greater supply problems after the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. A new study published in Health Affairs puts the shortage in new perspective, however.

Numerous studies have highlighted shortages in primary care and predicted even greater supply problems after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is fully implemented. A new study published in Health Affairs, however, puts the shortage in new perspective.

An estimated 7 million people live in areas where the need for primary care providers exceeds supply by more than 10%, and another 45 million live in areas where demand is 5% greater than the supply of providers, according to a new report. Study authors say unmet needs will require another 7,200 primary care providers-or 2.5% of the current supply.

The study places increased demand between 1.5% and 2.4%, assuming nurse practitioners and physician assistants will bear part of the burden caused through increased demand for primary care as a result of the implementation of the ACA.

The study aimed to identify which areas will face the largest increases in demand to aid in the creation of incentives and programs to stem primary care deficiencies in those areas. Need will greater or less in some areas, with some of the largest increases in demand predicted in Idaho, Mississippi, Texas, Mississippi, Nevada, and Oklahoma, according to the study.

In 2010, about 50 million Americans were uninsured, with about 290,000 primary care providers and 542 million total primary care visits, according to the report. The population was spread across 5,620 primary care service areas with at least one primary care provider at that time. On average, those areas had 87 primary care providers per 100,000 residents, with a minimum of six and a maximum of 1,178, according to the report. Roughly 42% of those areas were identified as shortage areas in 2010, the study adds.

With an estimated 29 million currently uninsured expected to add demand to primary care services, study authors anticipate an additional 25.7 million primary care visits per year, which would strain an already saturated primary care system.

Small areas with greater need for primary care can be found in 47 states, and study authors conclude that more work needs to be done to promote and refine policies dealing with primary care distribution and increasing the overall supply of primary care providers.

 

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