52,000 More PCPs Needed by 2025

Another day, another projection about the coming primary care shortage. This time, it’s projected that the United States will need 52,000 more PCPs by 2025 because of population growth, aging, and expansion of the number of people with insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to a study in the November/December issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

“The total number of office visits to primary care physicians is projected to increase from 462 million in 2008 to 565 million in 2025,” says “Projecting U.S. Primary Care Physician Workforce Needs: 2010–2025.”

The study uses the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, administered by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, to calculate PCP office visits per person. PCPs, for this study, are general practitioners, family physicians, pediatricians, geriatricians, and general internists.

“Population growth will be the largest driver, accounting for 33,000 additional physicians, while 10,000 additional physicians will be needed to accommodate population aging. Insurance expansion will require more than 8,000 additional physicians, a 3 percent increase in the current workforce,” the study says.

By 2025, the nation will need about 270,000 primary care physicians, say the authors, but they hint that the demand might be even more.

“We did not project pent-up demand and commensurate higher utilization that may occur as formerly uninsured individuals become insured.”

This known unknowable is alluded to in a recount of what took place in Massachusetts under Romneycare.

“After Massachusetts mandated health insurance in 2006, primary care wait times increased, even though the state has the second highest ratio of primary care physicians to population of any state and a robust network of community health centers,” the study states. The situation prompted Mario Motta, MD, the president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, “to declare that universal coverage does not equal universal access.”