Demograhics And Family Practice

Demograhics and Family Practice





The face of United States is changing dramatically according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau the average age is increasing quickly. The number of people aged 65 and over are expected to double within the next 25 years. Almost 20% of all Americans will be 65 years or older by 2030. Further, the age group 85 and older is now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. The health of older Americans is improving. Still, many are disabled and suffer from chronic conditions so they will demand and receive more health care as they age. The 14 million people age 65 and older reported some level of disability in Census 2000, mostly linked to a high prevalence of chronic conditions such as heart disease or arthritis. The need for health care will continue to grow as the population in the US ages. This one issue will make the demand for physicians to increase and could lead to shortages of medical services. Other factors are impacting demand for health care, the shrinking economy and the purported health care reform. Primary Care Shortage As many as one-third of today’s 650,000 physicians may retire by the year 2020. There is particular concern about primary care shortages in the near future as older physicians retire and younger ones seek higher paying specialties instead of primary care. Rural areas are especially vulnerable to attracting and retaining new physicians as the old ones retire. By 2020, American Academy of Family Physicians suggests there will be a shortage of 40,000 primary care doctors (Family Practice jobs, Internal Medicine jobs, Pediatric jobs). Since the number of medical students choosing primary care as a profession has already dropped by 51.8% since 1997, there could be a continued drop in supply for primary care physicians if nothing is done to correct. The drop in interest in primary care is likely a response to the significantly higher salaries that sub specialists command. Weak Economy and Aging Population With the recession and massive job loss across the country has had a direct impact on the revenue stream to physicians. When people lose their job, they also lose their health care benefits and so access to health care. However, many doctors are postponing retirement since watching the stock market decimate their retirement savings. This postponement has resulted in fewer jobs being offered and graduating residents not finding as many opportunities as before. Residents rather than committing themselves to less desirable jobs are opting for locum tenens jobs and waiting before committing to full time employment. So for the short term, it appears there are fewer good jobs available. Health Insurance Reform Another uncertainty is the national health reform which seems to be changing and shrinking every day. However, to the degree that reform increases enrollment of health care insurance then these increased numbers should push demand for services and therefore cost higher. However, no one yet knows what will happen to reimbursement rates from Medicare. Already there has been some lowering of rates they pay in Radiology which has directly impacted that specialty. The question is will there be more rates cut that will affect all specialties. Because of these and other factors many physician practices are holding off making any decisions until they have a better idea of how the health reform will impact these reimbursements.

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Demograhics and Family Practice