States with the Fewest (and Most) Doctors

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5. Texas
> Doctors per 100,000 people: 176.1
> Medical students per 100,000 people: 26.2 (25th lowest)
> Pct. without health insurance: 23.7% (the highest)
> Life expectancy: 78.3 years (21st lowest)

Texas is currently facing shortages in 36 out of 40 medical specialties, according to D Healthcare Daily.  In order to get more doctors working sooner, Texas Tech introduced a three-year medical program for students willing to enter patient care in 2011. In addition to potentially saving a year of tuition, students in the first-year program will receive scholarship assistance. Recently, Texas passed legislation requiring foreign-educated doctors to work for three years in medically underserved areas in exchange for a Texas license. Some experts fear this could make Texas’ doctor shortage worse, as international medical graduates — who account for 23.9% of doctors in Texas — go looking for work in other states.

4. Idaho
> Doctors per 100,000 people: 172.5
> Medical students per 100,000 people: N/A
> Pct. without health insurance: 17.7% (11th highest)
> Life expectancy: 79.2 years (20th highest)

Although Idaho’s doctor shortage is among the worst in the nation, the state’s lack of medical residents is potentially just as problematic. There are just 3.9 medical residents per 100,000 people in Idaho — the second-worst figure in the U.S. and well below the national figure of 35.8 per 100,000. The Pending retirement of doctors in the state is also an issue. In a report on Idaho’s doctor shortage, NPR noted that 41.5% of physicians in the state are 55 and older. Idaho is one of just a few states that has no accredited medical school.

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3. Utah
> Doctors per 100,000 people: 169.5
> Medical students per 100,000 people: 14.1 (7th lowest)
> Pct. without health insurance: 15.3 % (19th highest)
> Life expectancy: 80.1 years (8th highest)

In many ways, Utah doesn’t share the characteristics of a state with a low doctor-to-patient ratio. The state’s median household income was about $4,700 higher than the national figure. The state’s uninsured rate was slightly below the national rate of 15.5%. But the state has only one medical school, the University of Utah, and it had to trim enrollment by 20 students a year due to recent federal budget cuts. Meanwhile, Utah’s population has grown faster than all states with the exception of Texas between April 2010 and July 2011. While the state has recruited out-of-state doctors to fill the gap, Sri Koduri of the Utah Medical Education Council recently told the Salt Lake Tribune that Utah doesn’t pay like other states. ”It’s easy to lose our edge with this group,” she said.

2. Arkansas
> Doctors per 100,000 people: 169.1
> Medical students per 100,000 people: 22.2 (tied-17th lowest)
> Pct. without health insurance: 17.5% (12th highest)
> Life expectancy: 76.1 years(6th lowest)

Arkansas has only one accredited medical school, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine. Of the school’s graduates, 57.6% were active within the state — one of the 10 highest rates in the nation. The state is one of the least healthy in the nation, as 22.9% of adults smoked and 67.2% of adults were either overweight or obese, both among the country’s worst rates. In addition to these health problems, many people in the state did not have insurance. As many as 17.5% of the state’s population were uninsured in 2010. In 2010, median household income in Arkansas was $38,307, the third-lowest in the nation.

1. Mississippi
> Doctors per 100,000 people: 159.4
> Medical students per 100,000 people: 20.2 (13th lowest)
> Pct. without health insurance: 18.2% (9th highest)
> Life expectancy: 74.8 years (the lowest)

Mississippi is sorely lacking in doctors. The life expectancy in Mississippi was just 74.8 years, the lowest rate in the country. The state’s overweight or obesity rate was 68.8%, while 12.4% of the state had diabetes, both the second-highest rates in the country. The rural care centers in Mississippi are suffering the most, with lawmakers and hospitals working to provide incentives for doctors to relocate to those areas. In 2011, a group of Mississippi legislators proposed a program to provide grants to doctors who work in rural Mississippi for at least five years. That legislation eventually died. Meanwhile, the Appalachian Regional Commission has sponsored a visa waiver program for years to try and recruit international doctors.

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