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Health insurance debate turns to primary care shortage

Posted On Fri, August 21, 2009

While the debate over health insurance reform continues, some medical professionals are warning that a crucial issue to focus on is the looming shortage of primary care physicians.

An article from USA Today this week focused on the emerging problem, which is said to be due in part to factors like tougher work burdens, less pay and extra administrative requirements.

The newspaper adds that the number of medical students heading into primary care has fallen by 51.8 percent since 1997, with more students now opting to become specialists.

The report says that the matter is of particular concern at this point because it can take up to 11 years to educate a doctor, and a shortage of 40,000 family physicians is already projected by 2020, in part due to large numbers of baby boomers advancing in years.

The American Academy of Family Physicians issued its own warning this summer, also noting that demand for family and primary care physicians had grown 132 percent just in the past few years. If the shortfall does continue to grow, one side effect could be higher health insurance costs because of increased competition for access to medical services.

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