States Running Out Of Doctors

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There are several ways to measure what many experts describe as a shortage of physicians in some parts of the United States. The first is the ratio of doctors per thousand people. America’s rank among developed nations is fairly low by that measurement. The US has 3.12 doctors per thousand people, or about 950,000 physicians in the entire country. Countries such as Israel, Belgium, Greece, and Italy have ratios more than 50% higher than America’s. This is probably due to universal healthcare in those counties. Based on this data, the US would need to add many more doctors quickly as national healthcare is phased in.

The more important numbers for Americans is the ratio of doctors available by regions, especially in those regions where the ratios are very low. 24/7 Wall St. looked at doctors per 1,000 people by state using analysis of American Medical Association data, information from the US Census, the Association of American Medical Colleges, state healthcare organizations the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The most striking piece of information shows how much lower the doctor/population ratio is in some states. It is only 2.03  per thousand people in Oklahoma, and less than 2.2 per thousand in Idaho, Mississippi and Iowa. There is no distinct pattern among these. It could be argued that each is a rural state, but beyond that the four do not have much in common.  Mississippi is a relatively poor state with a relatively poorly educated population. That is not true of Idaho, Iowa and Oklahoma.

The other data which 24/7 Wall St. identified as important is the rate at which the doctor to population rate has grown over the last decade and a half. The national average for this growth from 1995 to 2009 was 15.56% based on AMA data. Several state growth rates were far below that. This is a factor in medical care now and may be more so in the future. The Association of American Medical Colleges recently reported that “Experts warn there won’t be enough doctors in the next 15 years to treat the millions of people newly insured under the law. At current graduation and training rates, the nation could face a shortage of as many as 150,000 by then.” States that are well behind in the rate of increase of doctors to patients over the last 15 years will have trouble meeting their needs 15 years from now . It will be hard to play catch-up as the demand for physicians grows so quickly across the country

The doctor population will be stretched in several directions. Some of those directions are based on current problems. Malpractice lawsuits has cut the number of specialists in some regions. This is particularly true of certain kinds of surgeons and obstetricians. Tort reform has been modest.  Even if abusive lawsuits are curbed dramatically, the time it would take to fill the depleted ranks of these specialists in certain regions would take years. Doctor shortages are also acute in many regions which are poor or rural where practioners are not paid well.

Nearly every national problem from driver safety to consumer spending seems to be tied to Baby Boomers whether it is an exaggeration or not. The doctor problem can be added to that list. The aged need more care in general. They are more likely to have heart disease and cancer need transplants and make visits to emergency rooms.

This is 24/7 Wall St.’s States Running Out Of Doctors. It includes several pieces of data for each state. It is ranked by the states with the slowest growth rates among the 50 based on doctors to 1,000 people from 1995 to 2009.

Read on for the Ten States Running Out Of Doctors.