Health Insurance doesn’t equal access to Health Care – U.S. Physician Shortage

Physician Shortage Is Estimated to Be Over 130,000 By 2015
AAPI To Advocate For More Residency Slots During Legislative Day on Capitol Hill

Health Insurance doesn’t equal access to Health Care – U.S. Physician Shortage

Image courtesy of [artur84] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With the beginning of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance coverage is expected to expand to an additional 34 million people in the United States. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects that universal coverage will increase the use of physicians by 4%, while the Bureau of Health Professions projects a 5.2% increase. According to Census projections, the overall population will increase by 15.2% from 2010 to 2025, and the population aged older than 65 years will grow by 60%, while those aged younger than 18 years will increase by 13%.

Accordingly, it’s been estimated that the total number of office visits to primary care physicians alone for the United States will increase from a base of 462 million in 2008 to 565 million in 2025. Because of aging, the average number of visits to primary care physicians will increase from 1.60 in 2008 to 1.66 in 2025. By age 65, about two-thirds of senior citizens have at least one chronic disease, and 20 percent of Americans older than 65 see 14 or more physicians and average 40 physician visits each year.

In addition to these changes, is the age factor of the currently practicing physicians themselves. Every 1 in 3 practicing physicians in the U.S. is over the age of 55 and is close to retirement. The irony, however, is that the number of Medicare-sponsored residency slots has been capped since 1997, and the Medical school graduates may exceed the number of residency positions by 2015.

Struggling to meet these higher demands and reduced supply of physicians, the nation is projected to be short by more than 90,000 physicians by 2020 and 130,000 physicians by 2025, according to projections by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Indian-Americans constitute less than one percent of the country’s population, but they account for nine percent of the American doctors and physicians. As Forbes magazine aptly summed up, “The overrepresentation of Indians in these fields (engineering, IT and medicine) is striking – in practical terms, one out of seven doctors is likely to be of Indian Heritage.” They provide medical care to over 40 million of US population.

The annual Legislative Day & Congressional Reception organized by Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, March 26th and Thursday, March 27th, 2014, with participation from dozens of key US Congressmen and Senators will be a perfect forum to advocate for more Residency Slots.

“As you are aware, how important it is for us to be involved in the decision making on Bills that affect not only our patients but also us,” says Dr. Jayesh Shah, President of AAPI. “We’re pleased that bipartisan Members of Congress are joining us on Capitol Hill this month. Some of the important bills including SGR Repeal and increase in Residency Slots will be discussed during this session. Your presence on the Capitol Hill is more needed now than ever before.”

According to Dr. Shah, AAPI strongly supports the “Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2013,” introduced by U.S. Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY) (H.R. 1180) and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) (S. 577), which would provide an additional 15,000 residency positions in Fiscal Years 2015-2019. “Increasing the size of medical school classes is not enough. There must be a simultaneous increase in the size of residency positions to train these future doctors,” he says.

Dr. Ravi Jahagirdar, President-Elect of AAPI, says, “AAPI urges members of Congress to include physicians graduating from U.S. residency programs for Green Cards in the comprehensive immigration reform bill. “Physicians graduating from accredited U.S. residency programs should also receive similar treatment. Such a proposal would enable more physicians to be eligible for Green Cards and address the ongoing physician shortage,” he adds.

As part of comprehensive immigration reform, a proposal may include international students graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) being fast-tracked for Green Cards. This proposal enables highly-skilled workers to remain in the United States after receiving their higher education in America.

“We are pleased to inform you that a bipartisan legislation was recently introduced in Congress to permanently repeal the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) Formula,” Dr. Harbhajan Ajrawat, Chair of AAPI Legislative Affairs Committee, while referring to “SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2014,” H.R. 4015, says. “AAPI will continue monitoring this vital legislation and will be asking members of Congress tough questions about the SGR during our Legislative Day on Capitol Hill.”

AAPI supports Congress providing a permanent fix to the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. In January 2013, Congress passed a temporary patch to avert a 26.5 percent cut, which expires in 2014. AAPI urges members of the House to cosponsor H.R. 574 to bring certainty to the Medicare reimbursement system, Dr. Ajrawat adds.

Dr. Sampat Shivangi, Co-Chair of AAPI Legislative Affairs Committee, says, “In our continued goals to reach out to US Congress, our annual Legislative Conference will focus on burning issues like Medicare SGR, Immigration reform, Combating Obesity, Implementation Affordable Care and of course on growing US-India relations in spite of few recent setbacks.” He has urged “the AAPI community to be part of this exciting event and share their enthusiasm and experience on various issues which promises to be very exciting event.”

In the 112th Congress, AAPI helped secure the introduction of the “Doctors for Underserved Areas in America Act,” (H.R. 2805), by U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), which would make the J-1 Visa Waiver Program permanent. The J-1 visa gives international medical graduates the opportunity to perform their medical training and residency in the United States. AAPI wants members of Congress to cosponsor legislation making the J-1 Visa Waiver Program permanent when it is reintroduced in the House and to cosponsor S. 616.

In its efforts to maintain a healthy doctor-patient environment by curbing aggressive litigation targeting physicians, AAPI has been advocating for federal and state legislation that places effective caps on non-economic damages, limits the use of joint-and-several liability, provides physicians with flexibility to negotiate settlements with medical insurers and limits the statute of limitations for filing medical malpractice claims.

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