(I asked the good people at Project Millennial if I could write for them. It’s focused on health policy and my generation. You should check it out)
Listen up, folks. If you’re single, now is an excellent time to find yourself a nice med student or resident; if you’re already in a relationship, ask your partner really nicely to go get an MD. While you’re at it, start stocking up on Neosporin and Band-Aids. Why? Well, it’s that time of the year when multiple articles get all Paul Revere on the projected doctor shortage: “The doc shortage is coming! The doc shortage is coming!” And you don’t want to be left behin PCP-less, do you?
This time, the instigating factor is PPACA, the health care reform bill that the Supreme Court decided was constitutional in June. Annie Lowrey and Robert Pear over at The New York Times posted a piece in early August that discussed what is expected to happen when PPACA’s mandated state exchanges start in January 2014; John Goodman wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that blamed much of the expected shortage on PPACA and argued that Medicaid beneficiaries will not have access to physician coverage; Uwe Reinhardt added his thoughts on how physician shortages vary across states, as do conceptions of what a shortage is. The Reinhardt post is a bit more sanguine than both Lowrey/Pear and Goodman, but all touch on a key point: if physician supply can’t keep up with physician demand, all manner of social ills will result.
Like any good millennial, the first question I asked after reading through the articles was “Does this affect me?” (That’s a joke, mostly.) The answer I came up with: probably not much, and definitely not as much as some of these articles suggest. It’s not that I’m denying the existence of a shortage. More than anything else, I think that innovations in how care is delivered and how we manage our conditions will render the shortage much less harmful than currently believed.