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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: Doctor Shortage

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Doctor Shortage

HT Drudge Report)  Suzanne Sataline and Shirely S. Wang, Wall Street Journal writers report that recently passed healthcare reform legislation will result in a 150,000 doctor shortage by 2025 in "Medical Schools Can't Keep Up." 
The greatest demand will be for primary-care physicians. These general practitioners, internists, family physicians and pediatricians will have a larger role under the new law, coordinating care for each patient.

The U.S. has 352,908 primary-care doctors now, and the college association estimates that 45,000 more will be needed by 2020. But the number of medical-school students entering family medicine fell more than a quarter between 2002 and 2007.

A shortage of primary-care and other physicians could mean more-limited access to health care and longer wait times for patients.

Proponents of the new health-care law say it does attempt to address the physician shortage. The law offers sweeteners to encourage more people to enter medical professions, and a 10% Medicare pay boost for primary-care doctors.
The article states that the number of medical resident positions will be a bottleneck in minting new doctors but misses a major point.  Long term shortages in the production of any good or service is a sign of government regulation.  The government should not need to offer "sweeteners" to lure students into medical school.  Wages should be sufficient sweetener.  The shortage of doctors will result in non price rationing of healthcare.  One cost is that those who value the service the most are not necessarily those who end up with the rationed service.  Queuing will almost certainly be a rationing mechanism.  Waiting is time and time is money.  Healthcare reform will cost middle income households. 


  1. Green Beans13/4/10 5:01 PM

    I agree that this is a problem. When government intervenes it's not good, but America's healthcare issues are dramatic. I believe that many of the health issues in America derive from unhealthy habits, such as no exercise. I believe one alternative should be to stimulate better health choices rather than giving everyone in America access to unwise choices of what they go to the doctor for. I believe that this is a good cause but I know it will be abused.

  2. Lindsay Weaver29/4/10 12:13 AM

    I completely agree that this is a problem. As nice as it will be for the people who don't have health care, it will also be stressful for everyone. Time is money does not only apply to the government but also to the people who will have to wait longer at a doctors office. Also, offering incentives for medical students to become primary-care doctors could end up a disaster! It could lead to more apathetic and careless doctors. Maybe they should start promoting it in schools more or something to give people the facts about it. I'm sure people would be interested.

  3. Allyssa Welch29/4/10 10:10 AM

    Just because you give out incentives for medical students doesn't always mean you will create a brilliant doctor. I know when I go to the doctor I want someone who knows what they're talking about,not someone you jumped into the medical field for some benefits.

  4. This is a problem. It's hard for anyone who doesn't have health care. All people sit and wait to get to see a doctor anywhere from 5-15 mins or longer. Helping the students who are in the medical would be a plus on the health side. Giving incentives for them would be a plus yet negative, making it easy would cause for more careless, uncauseiousness people in the world taking care of us, when going to the doctor we are putting sometimes our lives in their hands.