Health Care Reform Critics Concerned About Doctor Shortage
By Terry Hood and Dan Bewley, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- A concern critics have of the health care reform law is whether there will be enough doctors to take care of all the newly insured patients. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 45 million Americans currently don't have health insurance.
The O.U. School of Community Medicine graduated 131 medical students last year. They went into a variety of fields, from nursing to physician assistants, but roughly 40 percent became a primary care doctor, the first line of defense when treating a patient.
At the O.S.U. School of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa, 28 percent of last year's graduates became family physicians.
"The good thing about primary care is you get to take care of those patients for a long time," said Dr. Gerry Clancy, OU School of Community Medicine.
Dr. Clancy says if more people have health insurance there will be a bigger need for family doctors. Right now, he says, the country is 125,000 doctors short of what's needed. Oklahoma will need nearly 1,900 family doctors by 2020, that's 433 more than we currently have.
To get there, Dr. Clancy says the state needs 150 additional medical school graduates every year.
"We've actually started recruiting at the high school level. We've gone to our area high schools and said, 'health care is an area that is going to be expanding and, at least please consider that because there's going to be a lot of job security in health care,'" said Dr. Clancy.
The new health care law calls for loan forgiveness programs and scholarships to help get more family doctors in the system.
The American Academy of Family Physicians says the law will be phased in over the next eight years, enough time for the number of doctors to catch up.
"You don't turn this massive battleship, that's been moving along in one direction, quickly anyway. So that's in the benefit of everybody that's involved trying to meet that need," said Dr. Roland Goertz, American Academy of Family Physicians.
The OU School of Community Medicine and the University of Tulsa are working on a plan to open a joint community medical school. It's scheduled to start in 2014 and have at least 75 students in each class.