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May 16, 2017

Reassessing the Data on Whether a Physician Shortage Exists

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • 2Department of Health Care Management, The Wharton School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
JAMA. 2017;317(19):1945-1946. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.2609

Does the United States have enough physicians?—Yes.

For decades, experts have bemoaned a lack of sufficient primary care physicians in the United States. These fears came to a head during debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), when critics suggested that the millions of US residents gaining coverage under the ACA would further exacerbate the existing physician shortage. A 2011 American College of Surgeons report asserted that “even before [this] health care reform, the nation was headed for serious physician shortages and reform has only made it worse.”1 According to the updated report of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), released March 14, 2017, the AAMC still predicts a shortage of between 40 800 to 104 900 physicians by 2030.2

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