We need more residency slots?

Catherine Rampell writes about the primary care shortage:

Again and again, we hear that the country has too few doctors, particularly for primary care. And Obamacare is supposed to make the shortage much worse in the coming years as more Americans become insured and try to shoehorn themselves into already crowded medical offices.

But why, exactly, are doctors in such short supply?

I had always assumed the culprit was medical school enrollment. But when I looked into those numbers, I found that they are actually increasing noticeably. Thanks to the opening of new medical schools and expanded admissions at existing ones, enrollment is projected to rise by 30 percent between 2002 and 2017, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. That’s in addition, mind you, to the swelling number of med students studying abroad, with the goal of eventually practicing in the United States.

TIE readers already know it’s not medical school applications going down. They’re at an all-time high.

Rampbell gets into one of my pet peeves, the fact that hospitals likely make money off of residents. After all, by their last year of residency, they’re basically functioning as fully trained physicians, for a fraction of the salary. However, I think that demanding more residency slots ignores the fact that there are lots of unfilled spots each year. It’s more complicated than that. Getting more students to go into primary care will require some incentives.


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