No Primary Doc Shortage for Medicare Patients – at Least Not Yet

Medicare patients currently have adequate access to primary care physicians, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

But that could change in the near future, MedPAC warns.

Amid long-term concerns about whether there are enough primary care doctors, a new MedPAC report found that there are even fewer primary care doctors than most people believe.  MedPAC reached this conclusion after finding that approximately one out of every five doctors thought to be working as primary care physicians now labor instead as hospitalists.  As a result, growth in the number of primary care physicians has been negligible during the current decade.

Counteracting this shift are two trends:  first, Medicare patients appear to be seeing their primary care doctors less than in the past:  3.7 visits a year in 2017 versus 4.1 in 2013; and other practitioners, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, are seeing patients more frequently – 1.8 such encounters a year in 2017, up significantly from 1.1 in 2013.

Despite this, MedPAC is concerned that if the current trend of minimal growth in the supply of primary care physicians continues, Medicare beneficiaries may lack appropriate access to primary care in the future.

This issue is especially important to private safety-net hospitals because many serve especially large numbers of low-income Medicare patients who often face challenges in gaining access to the care they need.

Learn more from the Healthcare Dive article “As docs ditch primary care to become hospitalists, MedPAC warns of shortage” or see the new MedPAC report “Updates to the methods used to assess the adequacy of Medicare payments for physician and other health professional service.”

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