Health reform to worsen doctor shortage: group

WASHINGTON Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:04pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. healthcare reform law will worsen a shortage of physicians as millions of newly insured patients seek care, the Association of American Medical Colleges said on Thursday.

The group's Center for Workforce Studies released new estimates that showed shortages would be 50 percent worse in 2015 than forecast.

"While previous projections showed a baseline shortage of 39,600 doctors in 2015, current estimates bring that number closer to 63,000, with a worsening of shortages through 2025," the group said in a statement.

"The United States already was struggling with a critical physician shortage and the problem will only be exacerbated as 32 million Americans acquire health care coverage, and an additional 36 million people enter Medicare."

Medicare is the federal health insurance plan for people over the age of 65, and census projections show that group growing as the giant baby boomer generation born from 1946 to 1964 hits retirement age.

The U.S. healthcare reform plan signed into law by President Barack Obama in March is designed to provide insurance to 32 million Americans who now lack it.

The AAMC projected a shortage of 33,100 physicians in specialties such as cardiology, oncology and emergency medicine in 2015.

It calls for Congress to increase funding to train new doctors. "The number of medical school students continues to increase, adding 7,000 graduates every year over the next decade," the AAMC said.

It said at least 15 percent more were needed.

Other groups, such as the nonprofit Rand Corporation and the Institute of Medicine, have also projected various physician shortages.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

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