Hey doc, where are you?

You enter a long, difficult, and expensive (very expensive!) educational program. During this educational program, you choose from one of two options: Option A means that you will serve a lot of clients, but you will only be able to charge each one of them $100. With Option B, you serve fewer clients, but will be allowed to charge each client $500. Which option would you choose?

The “educational program”, if you haven’t figured it out already,  is a very simplified version of medical school. Option B are the doctors who choose to specialize: Cardiologists, Neurosurgeons, Orthopedics, etc. Option A are the doctors who choose Primary Care.

Less work and more money? It’s a wonder that anyone chooses Primary Care. But these doctors are the people we usually see first. Medicine’s “Jack of all Trades”, they seem to know a little bit about everything. And with our insurance companies almost demanding a Referral Form before you can see a specialist, these doctors are usually the ones who can get that process started. The problem is – and it is a major problem – there are fewer and fewer of these doctors.

One of the reasons there is more specialization is financial: all those medical school student loans have to be paid back, you know. Two percent of medical school graduates choose primary care, and the debt incurred by a young doctor could be one of the reasons why. Beverly Hills may be full of  “swimmin’ pools and movie stars”, but the Primary Care doctors there are up to their ears in debt.

It’s almost as if these doctors are just disappearing into thin air. The crisis is already building in Idaho. And if you think the Primary Care shortage is confined to rural areas, think again:  A Primary Care shortage is overwhelming Massachusetts. Statewide health care reform increased the number of insured, as intended, but now those new patients are looking for a doctor. One hospital reports that 1600 people are on the waiting list and it takes about four months to get an appointment. Four months is a bit long, don’t you think?

When you think “Health Care Reform”, most Americans usually think of Universal Healthcare and/or various  payment options. But that’s only a part of it. President-Elect Obama’s proposed health care plan will increase the workload of our Primary Care Physicans. Where will we find these doctors?

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