The United States will require at least 52,000 more family doctors in the year 2025 to keep up with the growing and increasingly older U.S. population, a new study found.
The predictions also reflect the passage of the Affordable Care Act -- a change that will expand health insurance coverage to an additional 38 million Americans.
"The health care consumer that values the relationship with a personal physician, particularly in areas already struggling with access to primary care physicians should be aware of potential access challenges that they may face in the future if the production of primary care physicians does not increase," said Dr. Andrew Bazemore, director of the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Primary Care and co-author of the study published Monday in the Annals of Family Medicine.
How is all coverage going in Massachusetts?
These problems loom even larger considering the aim of the Affordable Care Act to provide all Americans with health insurance -- and with it, more regular contact with a primary care doctor.
Perhaps the best known example of this approach has been Massachusetts, which since 2006 has mandated that every resident obtain health insurance and those that are below the federal poverty level gain free access to health care. But although the state has the second-highest ratio of primary care physicians to population of any state, they are struggling with access to primary care physicians.
Dr. Randy Wexler of The John Glenn Institute of Public Service and Policy said he has concerns that this trend could be reflected nationwide.
"Who is going to care for these people?" he said. "We are going to have problems just like Massachusetts. [They] are struggling with access problems; it takes one year to get into a primary care physician. Coverage does not equal access."
Obamacare promised coverage no matter what to the taxpayers. Access is a whole different thing.