RSS
Will Obamacare cause a doctor shortage?
Commentators consider how bad the crunch will be when an additional 32 million Americans get medical insurance
 
Can America's doctors handle 32 million more patients?
Can America's doctors handle 32 million more patients?
Corbis

Though the health-care-reform bill is being hailed for providing medical coverage to 32 million Americans that currently lack it, many experts are concerned that the influx of new patients will swamp the system—in effect, reducing the number of doctors available. According to recent reports, America may face a "shortfall" of 40,000 primary-care physicians over the next decade. How worried should we be?

The quality of U.S. medical care will plummet: Expect "longer wait times" and a general "decline in the high quality of care Americans are accustomed to," says the editorial board in Investor's Business Daily. Just look at Canada or the U.K.: Their government-run systems "encourage unnecessary doctor visits" and, as a result, have led to "long, and sometimes deadly, wait times." Obama is getting just what he asked for: An America with an overcrowded, substandard medical system.
"The doctor shortage"

Let's not be alarmist here: It's not like 32 million people who've never seen a doctor before will be flooding in all at once, says Ezra Klein in The Washington Post. It will happen over many years. The U.S. health-care system is also built for growth—we've successfully added 33 million people since 1990. There may be some short-term "disruptions," but ultimately "increased demand" will generate "increased supply."
"Do we have enough doctors for health-care reform?"

The solutions won't be pretty: Expect the health-care system to begin embracing the concept of "medical homes," says Ed Morrissey in Hot Air. In these facilities, patients usually see "nurses and physician assistants" — and doctors only when "absolutely necessary." Ironically, this is the same setup "liberals widely criticized" in the '80s when insurance companies tried it. 
"Get ready for long lines at family-practice doctors' offices" 

 ............................................

PREVIOUS OPINION BRIEFS ON THIS TOPIC:

Is Obama now a "great" president?

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week