Doctors Wanted: US Faces Shortage of 16,000 Health Care Physicians

First Posted: Jan 30, 2013 10:27 AM EST

Say what you want about President Obama's health care law, but one thing's for certain: We need more doctors. According to a Senate report released on Tuesday, the U.S. needs 16,000 more primary health care physicians to meet its current health care needs, which account for the newly-insured residents under the health care law.

Millions of Americans are expected to gain coverage when the law goes into full effect in 2014. Yet the lack of physicians has caused a major crisis. Although a panel, called the National Health Care Workforce Commission, was supposed to help prepare for this anticipated spike in demand, it has yet to meet or even be funded.

The panel was first created in 2010 by Congress under the health care law. The 15 members were appointed, but little else has been accomplished. Since then, 10 members' terms have expired; yet they've been appointed for another three years each.

The findings of this new report showed that one in five sick Americans visits an emergency room for care that should have been rendered by a primary care physician. This unfortunate trend results not only in higher health care costs, but also results in poorer outcomes for patients.

There's a reason for this lack of primary care physicians. Medical school graduates are flocking to lucrative specialty fields that will pay nearly $3 million more than primary car positions over the course of their careers, according to the Washington Times. This is a hugely attractive option for students who will face looming debts after medical school.

A report issued by the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging estimates that 57 million Americans currently lack ready access to primary health care. However, this lack hits rural and low-income urban area the hardest. It could turn into a crisis if lawmakers and the industry do not address the issue before health care law comes into full effect.

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