A Senate panel on Tuesday examined a “major crisis” in primary health care at a time when 30 million more patients will soon get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act and worsen an already acute doctor shortage. One in five Americans today live in areas where they do not have adequate access to primary care due to a shortage of providers, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders (the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging).
“In our country today we are spending almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other major country yet our health outcomes in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality and disease prevention are not particularly good,” Sanders said. “One of the reasons for that is that we have a major crisis regarding primary health care access which results in lower quality health care for our people and greater expenditures.”
According to a report released at the hearing, as many as 45,000 people die each year because they do not have health insurance and do not get to a doctor on time. A significant reason for the lack of access to care is that less than one-third of all doctors in America today practice primary care, down for half of all physicians 50 years ago. The problem is likely to get worse because many primary care doctors are nearing retirement and fewer and fewer medical students are interested in becoming family practitioners.