In a series of four posts, we explore key issues raised by the Affordable Care Act and how our country needs more health care providers who are able to provide high quality integrated care. We asked for your thoughts on what public health care agencies should do to meet the growing health care need. Next week, we explore the importance of having health care providers from diverse backgrounds.
By Patricia Marrone Bennett
Our country’s health care workforce is experiencing a major shortage of providers who can serve individuals recently enrolled in the ACA’s health care reform insurance plans. Did you know that, by 2020, it is estimated that there will be a deficit of 45,000 primary care providers (PCPs)? This is particularly problematic as PCPs comprise the backbone and frontline of our health care system’s infrastructure and distribution of services. They are usually the ones who see patients at the onset of their symptoms, and triage patients to appropriate sources of care. Currently, 20% of Americans live in areas with insufficient primary care providers, 30% live in areas with too few mental health providers, and 16% live in areas with too few dentists – many of the new Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollees reside in these same areas. Some strategies such as loan reimbursement programs, salary stipends, leadership development programs, career advancement tracks, housing support, and relocation assistance packages have been utilized to some degree. These programs may need to be enlarged in order to entice health care providers to practice in high-need areas. How else do you think we can incentivize highly-trained health care providers to practice in areas that are in dire need of services?