Monday, June 21, 2010

Preparing For Our Primary Care Provider Needs

There is very encouraging news from the Director of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, about investments being made to make sure that we increase the number of primary care providers in years to come. I feel like someone is paying attention and acting before a potential crisis actually develops. We currently have a shortage of primary care providers and the future, particularly with the enactment of healthcare reform, certainly will be much worse. Experts point to several factors that are driving the shortage of primary care physicians. These include poorer reimbursement compared to other specialties, longer working hours, and a shortage of residency spots for training our future physicians.

The new investments to address at least some of these issues were made possible by the Affordable Care Act. These are building on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Together they will help train and develop more than 16,000 new primary care providers over the next five years. $250 million will be allocated to this effort and will include the following steps:

1) $168 million to create additional primary care residency slots to train more than 500 new primary care physicians by 2015.

2) $32 million to train more than 600 physician assistants who will work under the direction of primary care physicians in the new medical homes thus extending the number of patients that can be seen by these physicians.

3) $30 million to encourage over 600 nursing students to pursue school full time.

4) $15 million for the operation of 10 nurse practitioner led clinics located in medically underserved areas that will also assist in the training of future nurse practitioners.

5) $5 million for states to develop innovative ways to encourage additional primary care providers in their state.

These steps don't exactly address the issue of paying primary care physicians more in relation to other specialties but they do start to address lifestyle issues and directly address an increase in training slots for future providers. I applaud the HHS Secretary on this announcement and hope to see additional efforts in this area.

More on this later.

Mark Brodeur

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