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March 6, 1996

Physician Workforce Projections: Too Many or Just Right?

Author Affiliations

US Department of Health and Human Services Rockville, Md

JAMA. 1996;275(9):685. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530330029020

To the Editor.  —Dr Cooper1 implements a set of assumptions that produce a near balance between future supply and requirements for physicians. This conclusion is held by a minority of analysts.2 Nonetheless, his analysis offers provocative argument for reexamining projections. Although several assumptions are debatable, we focus on Cooper's population projections, productivity adjustments, and analysis of nonphysician clinicians (NPCs).Cooper asserts that the US Bureau of the Census' midlevel population projections are too low, using instead a series between the Bureau of the Census' middle and high estimates. This assertion contradicts the Bureau of the Census' most recent data, which show that growth in 1994 and 1995 actually fell 9% below its mid-level 1993 projection (G. Spencer, PhD, Bureau of the Census, written communication, November 30, 1995). By choosing a higher figure, Cooper succeeds in lowering the physician population ratio by 13 per 100 000 in 2020, erasing