Primary care physicians are in great demand. Demand exceeds supply because there’s not a whole lot of incentive for people who devote years of study to medicine to not add a couple more years and become a specialist at twice the income.
That kind of mucks up the work in a health care industry that revolves around primary care physicians. The imbalanced system can leave people, healthy or otherwise, waiting months to get in to see a doctor.
Is that a problem?
“I’m a primary care physician so I’m biased. Of course, I think it’s a problem. People come out of medical school in the United States often with a great deal of debt, and if they are committed to a primary care career, they might also worry that they’ll have difficulty paying off their loan,” says Dr. Peter Ubel, a physician and behavioral scientist at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Medicine. A couple more years of training means you can make twice as much for the rest of your career.
An imbalanced system can leave people sick, especially if they can’t get an appointment.
“It can be really hard in rural Texas to get a primary care appointment, compared to Houston, but many physicians, when they finish training, might not want to live in a very rural area, so we may need to help make it easier for them, or incentivize them to do that,” Dr. Ubel suggests. Finding a way to relieve student loan payments could be a place to start, he adds.
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