Healthy Living: Affordable Care Act
There are millions of Americans without access to primary care but many are hoping the Affordable Care Act will help increase that access. However, there are still hurdles to achieving that goal. YNN's Katie Gibas has more.
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As many as 60 million Americans do not have access to primary care.
"We have a problem already in terms of access to primary care and that's going to grow as the Affordable Care Act expands access," said Dr. David Satcher, a former Surgeon General.
The Affordable Care Act is expected to bring in 20 million to 30 million people who are currently uninsured. That means that 30,000 primary care physicians will have to be hired by 2015. This is a task in which experts say is impossible.
"It's going to take a long time to really train enough primary care physicians. So people are looking at the primary care team, and the role of nurse practitioners, physician assistants and others. We have to figure out how to divide up the care," said Dr. Satcher.
One of the biggest hurdles to recruiting primary care doctors is the lower compensation, compared to that of specialty doctors.
"It's all about incentives. I think the reason that medical students have not been going into primary care areas is because the incentives have not been there. So I think if the Affordable Care Act does nothing else, hopefully it will provide greater incentives for people to go into the field of primary care and stay in the field of primary care," explained Dr. Satcher.
According to experts, the country's health depends on primary care and figuring out how to make it work for everyone.
"Communities that have the highest density of primary care providers have better health outcomes," said Dr. Satcher. "They have lower mortality rates and lower costs. And so if you look at it from the standpoint of cost, it's a concern. If you look at it from the standpoint of quality, it's a concern."
The encouraging news is that students being matched into primary care residencies has jumped 20 percent between 2009 and 2011, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. However, many more will be needed for the success of the Affordable Care Act.