One argument that tort reformers like to make in support of their cause is that there will be a shortage of doctors in the United States if tort reform (that is, limiting the ability of victims of medical malpractice to be fairly compensated for their injuries) is not immediately passed into law.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has studied the present and projected supply of physicians in the United States and its findings and projections may be a surprise to tort reformers.
An adequate supply of physicians may be thought of as having the right number of physicians, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time. From a patient’s perspective, an adequate supply of doctors is one where the patient is able to obtain prompt quality medical care.
Most states are close to having a supply of physicians equal to the demand for physicians. Several states, such as New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Maryland, have an estimated supply of physicians greater than the demand for physicians, which may suggest a possible oversupply of physicians in these states (these states have top medical facilities that treat out-of-state patients, suggesting that that may be one reason for the apparent oversupply of physicians in these states). States such as Texas and Florida appear to have a greater demand for physicians than there are physicians. California appears to have a supply of physicians that match the demand for physicians.
The HRSA report provides the following summary (in part): “While there exist geographic pockets of physician undersupply, at the national level there exists no strong evidence that in the base year (2000) there were any serious imbalances in physician supply. During the 1990s there were clear indicators that demand for primary care physicians was growing faster than demand for specialist services (reflecting managed care trends), as well as short-term imbalances in specific specialties as indicated by anecdotal evidence of fluctuating starting salaries and level of difficulty for new graduates to find work. Physician demand, driven primarily by population growth and a growing number of elderly, is projected to grow slightly faster than supply under the assumption that the health care system continues to provide the current level of care using current patterns of care delivery…”
Hence, it appears that the sky is not falling after all!
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