The lack of primary care doctors in the US may spell doom for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), writes Sarah Kliff in delawareonline.com.
The current primary care craze could fail the way the Clinton administration's health care plan failed to pan out during the 90s. In the end, Americans were left feeling disgruntled with Health Management Organizations' (HMO) limited networks and insurance plans rapidly lost market share.
'If the law succeeds in extending health insurance to 32 million more Americans, there won't be enough doctors to see them. In fact, the anticipated shortfall of primary-care providers, by 2015, is a staggering: 29, 800,' Kliff says.
It well-known that the PPACA, which will come into force in 2014 encourages primary care. Physical check-ups, diagnosis and preventative care are all covered under primary care. The logic followed, is that when a population has access to good primary care, it does not need frequent specialist care.
Also, a fewer number of people need to go in for specialist treatment or surgeries. Therefore, the cost of medical care decreases in the long run.
On the other hand, an economy that encourages specialist care - leads to a more expensive system of health care, as many conditions are treated at high-end, emergency levels. And the US is a typical example of such an economy.
The PPACA will let millions of hitherto previously uninsured Americans have affordable health care. Americans will now be looking out for good primary care doctors.
However, specialization is monetarily more rewarding - specialized doctors earn four times as much as primary care residents. Hence there is already a shortage of primary care doctors in the US. Also, specialty doctors bring a hospital more lucrative business. A radiologist, for example, earns a hospital $193 in Medicare reimbursements every hour, while a primary-care doctor brings in $101.
And this can be the nemesis of primary care and the PPACA.