Counties (In Every State) Where There Are No Doctors

August 8, 2018 by Evan Comen

According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, the United States needs an additional 15,000 primary care physicians to meet its current demand for health care services. Physician shortages can make it difficult for patients to access the health care they need and contribute to negative health consequences.

As the aging baby boom generation continues to require increased medical care, demand for health care professionals will likely increase, and the national doctor shortage will likely worsen.

In some more rural parts of the country, the shortage of doctors is far more acute. While the HRSA defines an area with a population-to-primary care physician ratio greater than 3,500-to-1 as underserved, there are counties with more than 20,000 residents that are served by just one doctor. Faced with declining populations and low educational attainment, these rural counties struggle to attract and retain physicians.

To determine the counties in every state where there are no doctors, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed data on primary care physicians per capita from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Click here to see the counties in every state where there are no doctors.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Source: Altairisfar / Wikimedia Commons

1. Alabama: Lowndes County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 9.5 (county), 65.4 (state)
> Poverty rate: 28.7% (county), 18.4% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 14.7% (county), 10.1% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -8.4% (county), +2.0% (state)

Source: paxson_woelber / Flickr

2. Alaska: Aleutians West Census Area
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 17.5 (county), 88.6 (state)
> Poverty rate: 7.7% (county), 10.1% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 8.2% (county), 5.8% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +4.1% (county), +5.2% (state)

Source: chrisjo / Getty Images

3. Arizona: Pinal County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 17.9 (county), 66.8 (state)
> Poverty rate: 16.5% (county), 17.7% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 6.9% (county), 7.1% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +13.0% (county), +6.2% (state)

Source: Skullrik / Wikimedia Commons

4. Arkansas: Izard County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 7.4 (county), 65.9 (state)
> Poverty rate: 22.0% (county), 18.8% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.9% (county), 8.9% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -1.0% (county), +2.5% (state)

Source: constantgardener / Getty Images

5. California: Imperial County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 21.3 (county), 79.0 (state)
> Poverty rate: 24.1% (county), 15.8% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 5.5% (county), 6.8% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +4.4% (county), +4.6% (state)

Source: BOB WESTON / Getty Images

6. Colorado: Elbert County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 4.1 (county), 81.9 (state)
> Poverty rate: 5.1% (county), 12.2% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 9.1% (county), 8.8% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +6.0% (county), +7.9% (state)

Source: JJBers / Flickr

7. Connecticut: Windham County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 50.4 (county), 84.8 (state)
> Poverty rate: 11.2% (county), 10.4% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.4% (county), 7.8% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -0.8% (county), +0.9% (state)

Source: Tim Kiser (w:User:Malepheasant) / Wikimedia Commons

8. Delaware: Kent County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 46.1 (county), 72.1 (state)
> Poverty rate: 13.2% (county), 12.0% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 8.9% (county), 8.6% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +7.2% (county), +4.9% (state)

Source: BOB WESTON / Getty Images

9. Florida: Madison County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 10.8 (county), 73.9 (state)
> Poverty rate: 28.5% (county), 16.1% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 12.3% (county), 8.6% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -3.7% (county), +6.7% (state)

Source: BOB WESTON / Getty Images

10. Georgia: Oglethorpe County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 6.8 (county), 66.6 (state)
> Poverty rate: 17.9% (county), 17.8% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 8.1% (county), 9.5% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +0.4% (county), +5.2% (state)

Source: Adam-Springer / Getty Images

11. Hawaii: Kauai County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 73.8 (county), 88.4 (state)
> Poverty rate: 9.6% (county), 10.8% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.4% (county), 8.2% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +6.2% (county), +5.0% (state)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

12. Idaho: Fremont County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 7.8 (county), 65.1 (state)
> Poverty rate: 12.0% (county), 15.2% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.0% (county), 6.6% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -1.8% (county), +5.5% (state)

Source: BOB WESTON / Getty Images

13. Illinois: Johnson County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 7.8 (county), 80.7 (state)
> Poverty rate: 12.6% (county), 14.0% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 6.1% (county), 8.2% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +1.6% (county), +0.5% (state)

Source: Kenneth_Keifer / Getty Images

14. Indiana: Owen County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 4.8 (county), 66.8 (state)
> Poverty rate: 14.8% (county), 15.0% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.2% (county), 8.0% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -2.9% (county), +2.1% (state)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

15. Iowa: Louisa County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 8.9 (county), 73.8 (state)
> Poverty rate: 12.6% (county), 12.3% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 6.8% (county), 6.7% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -2.8% (county), +2.5% (state)

Source: Ichabod / Wikimedia Commons

16. Kansas: Osage County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 6.2 (county), 76.1 (state)
> Poverty rate: 11.6% (county), 13.3% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 6.2% (county), 7.0% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -2.2% (county), +2.4% (state)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

17. Kentucky: Casey County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 6.3 (county), 66.6 (state)
> Poverty rate: 26.4% (county), 18.8% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 9.2% (county), 8.9% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -0.1% (county), +2.2% (state)

Source: Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons

18. Louisiana: Grant Parish
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 8.9 (county), 65.8 (state)
> Poverty rate: 19.0% (county), 19.7% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 8.8% (county), 10.7% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +2.2% (county), +3.6% (state)

Source: Magicpiano / Wikimedia Commons

19. Maine: Washington County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 56.4 (county), 111.1 (state)
> Poverty rate: 18.0% (county), 13.5% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 6.4% (county), 6.9% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -3.3% (county), +0.1% (state)

Source: Chesapeake Bay Program / Flickr

20. Maryland: Somerset County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 30.9 (county), 88.7 (state)
> Poverty rate: 25.1% (county), 9.9% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 8.1% (county), 8.7% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -2.1% (county), +3.9% (state)

Source: danlogan / Getty Images

21. Massachusetts: Bristol County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 55.0 (county), 105.7 (state)
> Poverty rate: 12.5% (county), 11.4% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.9% (county), 7.6% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +1.4% (county), +3.5% (state)

Source: David Coats / Wikimedia Commons

22. Michigan: Presque Isle County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 7.7 (county), 79.8 (state)
> Poverty rate: 13.5% (county), 16.3% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.5% (county), 8.4% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -4.2% (county), -0.1% (state)

Source: afiler / Flickr

23. Minnesota: Le Sueur County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 10.8 (county), 90.7 (state)
> Poverty rate: 8.5% (county), 10.8% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 5.6% (county), 6.5% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -0.4% (county), +3.3% (state)

Source: nataliemaynor / Flickr

24. Mississippi: Smith County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 6.2 (county), 53.2 (state)
> Poverty rate: 22.7% (county), 22.3% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 10.4% (county), 11.6% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -1.9% (county), +1.1% (state)

Source: Kbh3rd / Wikimedia Commons

25. Missouri: Crawford County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 4.1 (county), 70.8 (state)
> Poverty rate: 21.4% (county), 15.3% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 8.2% (county), 8.2% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -0.7% (county), +1.7% (state)

Source: bukki88 / Getty Images

26. Montana: Teton County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 16.5 (county), 77.2 (state)
> Poverty rate: 10.6% (county), 14.9% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.6% (county), 7.4% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -0.6% (county), +4.1% (state)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

27. Nebraska: Dakota County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 4.8 (county), 75.3 (state)
> Poverty rate: 16.0% (county), 12.4% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 5.9% (county), 6.8% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -0.5% (county), +3.8% (state)

Source: BOB WESTON / Getty Images

28. Nevada: Lyon County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 17.3 (county), 57.7 (state)
> Poverty rate: 15.3% (county), 14.9% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 8.2% (county), 8.3% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -0.1% (county), +6.2% (state)

Source: John Phelan / Wikimedia Commons

29. New Hampshire: Strafford County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 69.1 (county), 91.3 (state)
> Poverty rate: 10.1% (county), 8.5% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 6.7% (county), 6.9% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +2.5% (county), +0.9% (state)

Source: dougtone / Flickr

30. New Jersey: Salem County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 37.2 (county), 84.8 (state)
> Poverty rate: 13.8% (county), 10.9% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.8% (county), 8.2% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -2.2% (county), +1.9% (state)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

31. New Mexico: Torrance County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 6.4 (county), 75.6 (state)
> Poverty rate: 31.1% (county), 20.9% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 10.1% (county), 8.8% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -4.8% (county), +2.2% (state)

Source: dougtone / Flickr

32. New York: Orleans County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 7.2 (county), 83.6 (state)
> Poverty rate: 15.6% (county), 15.5% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.0% (county), 8.0% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -2.5% (county), +2.0% (state)

Source: ncdot / Flickr

33. North Carolina: Northampton County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 9.7 (county), 71.3 (state)
> Poverty rate: 28.5% (county), 16.8% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 11.7% (county), 9.0% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -6.7% (county), +5.5% (state)

Source: timevanson / Flickr

34. North Dakota: McKenzie County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 9.3 (county), 77.2 (state)
> Poverty rate: 12.8% (county), 11.2% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 6.0% (county), 6.4% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +71.2% (county), +10.4% (state)

Source: jsjgeology / Flickr

35. Ohio: Morgan County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 6.7 (county), 76.7 (state)
> Poverty rate: 20.3% (county), 15.4% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 8.8% (county), 8.6% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -1.5% (county), +0.5% (state)

Source: Steven C. Price / Wikimedia Commons

36. Oklahoma: Logan County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 2.2 (county), 63.6 (state)
> Poverty rate: 12.3% (county), 16.5% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.0% (county), 8.1% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +10.5% (county), +4.3% (state)

Source: Andrew Filer / Flickr

37. Oregon: Malheur County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 29.5 (county), 94.6 (state)
> Poverty rate: 24.8% (county), 15.7% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 6.7% (county), 6.3% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -2.6% (county), +4.7% (state)

Source: nicholas_t / Flickr

38. Pennsylvania: Sullivan County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 15.9 (county), 81.3 (state)
> Poverty rate: 12.0% (county), 13.3% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 6.7% (county), 8.2% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -2.6% (county), +1.0% (state)

Source: 23185977@N08 / Flickr

39. Rhode Island: Kent County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 80.1 (county), 96.0 (state)
> Poverty rate: 8.2% (county), 13.8% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 6.9% (county), 7.5% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -1.0% (county), +0.1% (state)

Source: Kaitlin Shiner / Flickr

40. South Carolina: Williamsburg County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 9.1 (county), 68.3 (state)
> Poverty rate: 29.3% (county), 17.2% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 13.4% (county), 9.6% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -5.5% (county), +5.7% (state)

Source: Courtesy of Túlio Assis via Flickr

41. South Dakota: Todd County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 10.0 (county), 78.0 (state)
> Poverty rate: 47.1% (county), 14.0% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.4% (county), 6.4% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +3.9% (county), +5.4% (state)

Source: Brian Stansberry / Wikimedia Commons

42. Tennessee: Crockett County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 6.9 (county), 72.9 (state)
> Poverty rate: 18.3% (county), 17.2% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.3% (county), 9.1% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +0.1% (county), +4.0% (state)

Source: BOB WESTON / Getty Images

43. Texas: Leon County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 5.9 (county), 61.0 (state)
> Poverty rate: 16.0% (county), 16.7% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 8.2% (county), 8.3% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +1.0% (county), +8.8% (state)

Source: Tricia Simpson / Wikimedia Commons

44. Utah: Emery County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 18.9 (county), 58.3 (state)
> Poverty rate: 12.0% (county), 11.7% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 8.1% (county), 7.0% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -2.4% (county), +8.6% (state)

Source: Doug Kerr from Albany, NY, United States / Wikimedia Commons

45. Vermont: Essex County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 32.4 (county), 112.4 (state)
> Poverty rate: 14.8% (county), 11.6% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 6.0% (county), 6.6% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -2.8% (county), +0.2% (state)

Source: Doug Kerr from Albany, NY, United States / Wikimedia Commons

46. Virginia: Pittsylvania County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 6.4 (county), 76.6 (state)
> Poverty rate: 15.1% (county), 11.4% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.7% (county), 8.0% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -1.3% (county), +4.8% (state)

Source: David_Johnson / Getty Images

47. Washington: Pacific County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 24.1 (county), 84.3 (state)
> Poverty rate: 18.7% (county), 12.7% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.5% (county), 6.3% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -1.8% (county), +6.3% (state)

Source: 123443334@N07 / Flickr

48. West Virginia: Wirt County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 17.2 (county), 78.5 (state)
> Poverty rate: 15.2% (county), 17.7% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 8.3% (county), 9.4% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +1.3% (county), -0.0% (state)

Source: User:Royalbroil / Wikimedia Commons

49. Wisconsin: Adams County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 4.9 (county), 80.4 (state)
> Poverty rate: 12.7% (county), 12.7% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.4% (county), 7.2% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: -3.2% (county), +1.6% (state)

Source: Jordan Crouse / Wikimedia Commons

50. Wyoming: Big Horn County
> Primary care physicians per 100,000: 16.8 (county), 67.1 (state)
> Poverty rate: 11.9% (county), 11.6% (state)
> Babies born w/ low birthweight: 7.8% (county), 8.6% (state)
> Population change, 2011-16: +3.3% (county), +5.1% (state)

Detailed Findings

All of these counties are sparsely populated, rural areas. According to the nonprofit National Rural Health Association, while 19.3% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, just 11.4% of U.S. physicians practice in rural settings. Of 50 of the counties on this list, 46 have a larger share of the population living in rural households than the nation as a whole, and 18 are classified as 100% rural.

There are multiple factors that contribute to the lack of doctors in rural areas. These communities often struggle to attract and retain well-trained health care professionals. Physician salaries are typically lower in rural areas, and certain lifestyle considerations may lead many doctors to choose to practice in urban communities over rural ones.

“Our training systems are biased towards cities and big urban centers,” said Dr. Vikas Saini, president of the Lown Institute, a think tank dedicated to transforming the U.S. health care system, in an interview with 24/7 Wall St.

Many of the counties with the fewest doctors per capita have difficulty attracting and retaining residents overall. In 41 of the 50 counties on this list, the populations either declined over the last five years or grew slower than the 3.9% national growth rate. The vacancy rate, an indication of housing desirability, is greater than the 12.2% national figure in 40 of the 50 counties.

Education also plays a major role in the physician workforce. Rural areas with lower quality schools and lower educational attainment rates are either less likely to attract medical students or lack nearby educational institutions to train physicians locally.

“Where people train tend to be where people practice,” Dr. Saini said. And rural communities without major training programs are less likely to attract medical professionals to the area. In 47 of the 50 schools on this list, the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree is smaller than the 30.3% national figure.

The negative health consequences of doctor shortages are also exacerbated in rural areas. Rural residents tend to be poorer and older, and they are more likely to rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. They have greater transportation difficulties reaching health care providers too, and are more likely to smoke, less likely to have health insurance, and are less healthy overall. Overburdened by health problems and underserved by health workers, Americans living in rural areas are more likely to face negative health consequences than their urban counterparts.

Many of these counties have been classified as Health Professional Shortage Areas by the Health Resources & Services Administration. In addition to the population-to-doctor ratio, the HRSA takes into account the levels of poverty, infant mortality, low birthweight, and distance to the nearest source of care in order to determine whether a community has a shortage of primary care services. The HPSA program identifies areas in which residents are more likely to suffer negative health consequences as a result of physician shortages, and make certain areas eligible for federal resources that combat health workforce shortages. In 34 of the 50 counties on this list, either the low-income population within a county or the entire county itself was designated as a HPSA.

While there are programs designed to increase patient access to health care in rural areas, the number of doctors per capita is just one small piece of the health care puzzle. The urban-rural health disparity is a systemic problem, and the physician shortage is just one of many factors contributing to negative health consequences in rural America.

“By most estimates of life expectancy and mortality over the last hundred years, health care contributes only 15% — some say 10% some say 20% — to overall longevity,” Dr. Saini said.

Methodology

To determine the counties in every state where there are no doctors, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed data on primary care physicians per capita from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Data on low birthweight also came from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. Data on the share of the population living in a rural area came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Decennial Census. Data on poverty came from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and is a five-year average over the period 2011 to 2016. Only counties with at least 3,500 residents were considered.