Last week, an investigative report revealed that 1,700 veterans who wanted to see a doctor at a Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital were missing from an official waiting list, mirroring a tactic used at two dozen other facilities across the country to mask long waits for medical care.
A few hundred other people are missing from the Veterans Affairs system, too: doctors.
America is running out of doctors. The country will be 91,500 physicians short of what it needs to treat patients by 2020, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. By 2025, it will be short 130,600.
The country will be 91,500 physicians short of what it needs to treat patients by 2020.
Like at the Veterans Affairs Department, demand will be highest for primary-care physicians, the kinds of doctors many people go to first before they are referred to specialists.
While students are applying to and enrolling in medical schools in record numbers, high interest does not necessarily mean more doctors. The number of residences — crucial stages of medical training — has not risen with the number of applicants, thanks to a government-imposed cap. The Association of American Medical Colleges has pushed Congress to change the law, predicting that there won’t be enough residencies for young doctors by next year.
Meanwhile, the number of patients is increasing. Millions of previously uninsured Americans are now able to seek medical care under the Affordable Care Act. Baby boomers are getting older and racking up new ailments, which means they making more trips to the doctor’s office. (The boomers who are doctors themselves are nearing retirement age.)
And both insured and uninsured Americans — including veterans — are sicker now than ever before.