It appears that an acute, long-predicted shortage of doctors will combine with the significant increase in the number of new patients seeking medical care in the next year or two to create long waits for access to physicians.
And you can be certain that the GOP will blame the Affordable Care Act and “government medicine” for the result.
This report in the National Journal repeats an oft-sounded alarm: a doctor shortage that has been building for the past several years promises to get much worse if we don’t act now to figure out creative ways to deal with it.
The report offers a few suggestions for coping but it presumably deliberately overlooks a major way to help: broaden insurance coverage to allow patients to choose non-MD doctors as their primary care physicians. If the AMA lobby weren’t so powerful and successful at convincing Americans that “doctor” means “MD and only MD”, the “shortage” would disappear instantly.
Chiropractors, homeopaths, Ayurvedic practitioners, naturopaths, hypnotherapists, midwives and a host of other trained specialists could take up the entire slack of much of the “general practice” activity if only insurance covered their services. These individuals — who are often quite skilled and almost always better trained than MDs in such areas as nutrition, lifestyle and compassion — could form an alternative first line of defense on the health care front.
I’m not suggesting that without some specific training and licensing or certification these non-traditional caregivers should be allowed, e.g., to write prescriptions or perform surgery. But to offer diagnoses and non-invasive alternative natural therapies for coping with common illnesses does not require the complex skills taught in the halls of medical academe in America today. To cite just one example (there are thousands of which I personally am aware), medical Qi Gong (pronounced chee gung) is a dominant health care methodology in China. Centuries of anecdotal evidence attest to its efficacy and now clinical studies are beginning to accumulate with supportive findings.
At a minimum, allowing MDs to associate with alternative healing providers to form partnerships could alleviate a substantial part of the burden on general practitioners, family doctors and other first-line medical personnel as we prepare for a nation more tuned into the importance and value of preventive medicine.