Originally published September 19 2008
Insured Americans Still Have No Health Care
by Jo Hartley
(NaturalNews) Here is a surprising statistic: approximately 56 million Americans do not have a relationship with a primary care physician. This is according to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). A large part of this group of Americans is insured -- so the issue is not insurance coverage. The issue is a shortage of primary care physicians in various areas of the U.S. This is particularly prevalent in poorer communities.
In many areas of the country, it is not unusual to find that primary care physicians are not accepting new patients and people who attempt to find a doctor when they need one are being turned away. In fact, unless you have a connection within the clinic, you are probably not going to get in to see the doctor.
Primary care physicians face many difficulties in practice these days. They have too little time, too much paperwork, too little reimbursement, and too much accountability to professionals who aren't doctors (yet are telling them what to do).
The mantra among health care reformers is focused on a national health insurance and the creation of "medical homes" that will employ primary care physicians. These homes would be responsible for overseeing general patient care.
Unfortunately, primary care physicians are advising young people not to go into medicine, and if they do, they are told to stay away from primary care. Instead, young people are encouraged to pursue fields such as Radiology, Ophthalmology, Anesthesia, or Dermatology. This is because they are accumulating large debt and primary care won't support this debt in the standard of living they are expecting.
Another issue is that more and more students prefer shift work so they can avoid patient care and concern after they are finished working. Students want an eight-to-five job and primary care won't give this to them.
Over the past ten years, medical schools have reported a 22 percent drop in the number of graduates who chose to become "generalists" instead of specialists. A recent estimate suggests that to provide services to every American who currently does not have a primary care physician, it would be necessary to add 60,000 more primary care physicians.
Unfortunately, instead of adding new primary care physicians, the number is dwindling. Older physicians are choosing to retire early. Younger physicians are switching their specialties and leaving general care. Also, the remaining number of primary care doctors is becoming much more discriminating about the patients and insurance they accept. They are opting out of Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements and limiting their practices to patients who have better paying commercial insurance.
Research has shown that primary care is less expensive. When patients do not have access to primary care doctors they have no choice but to get their basic care in emergency rooms. The limited number of primary care physicians is also putting additional stress on these emergency rooms. If patients can't get an appointment with a primary care doctor they have no choice but to visit an ER. Between 1996 and 2006 emergency room visits rose more than 32 percent. Interestingly, the proportion of ER visits by uninsured patients didn't change substantially between 1992 and 2005 even though the number of visits rose.
About the authorJo Hartley
Wife, Mother of 8, and Grandmother of 2
Jo is a 41 year old home educator who has always gravitated toward a natural approach to life. She enjoys learning as much as possible about just about anything!
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