Most Texas providers are well aware of the shortage of primary care physicians in the state. A majority of those probably are aware that the Affordable Care Act will impact the accessibility of care. Under the law, millions of uninsured will be added to the Medicaid rolls, and many will encounter physicians who don’t accept Medicaid patients. In other words, the law will exacerbate the shortage.
The New York Times reported on the shortage, focusing on the Inland Empire area of California.
“We have a shortage of every kind of doctor, except for plastic surgeons and dermatologists,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, the dean of the new medical school at the University of California, Riverside, founded in part to address the region’s doctor shortage. “We’ll have a 5,000-physician shortage in 10 years, no matter what anybody does.”
Experts describe a doctor shortage as an “invisible problem.” Patients still get care, but the process is often slow and difficult. In Riverside, it has left residents driving long distances to doctors, languishing on waiting lists, overusing emergency rooms and even forgoing care.
“It results in delayed care and higher levels of acuity,” said Dustin Corcoran, the chief executive of the California Medical Association, which represents 35,000 physicians. People “access the health care system through the emergency department, rather than establishing a relationship with a primary care physician who might keep them from getting sicker.”
The article notes that the Inland Empire area has a hard time attracting physicians (who prefer to work in wealthier areas), a familiar refrain in rural Texas.