(USA TODAY and 24/7 Wall Street)
The U.S. is currently facing a severe shortage of doctors.
The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that by 2020, the shortage will amount to more than 90,000 doctors, including 45,000 patient care physicians. Why such a shortfall?
The baby boom generation is getting older and will require more medical care in the coming years. The newly enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will soon require most people to obtain health insurance, leading millions more to seek care. Finally, a third of all doctors plan to retire this decade.
24/7 Wall St. looked at the 10 states with the highest ratio of patient care physicians and the 10 states with the lowest. The differences are stark. Massachusetts had 314.8 patient care doctors for every 100,000 residents. On the other hand, Mississippi had just 159.4, or just half the figure for Massachusetts.
States with a higher doctor-to-resident ratio share some common attributes. Generally, the states with high median incomes tend to have more doctors per capita, while poorer states tend to have substantially fewer. Among the 10 states with the most practicing physicians per capita are five of the six wealthiest states by median income in the country.
The ability to pay has a major influence on whether people have health insurance. Each of the 10 states with the highest concentration of doctors has uninsured rates lower than the national rate of 15.5%, while seven of the 10 states at the bottom have uninsured rates higher than the national rate. When doctors treat insured patients they are paid more than when they treat uninsured patients, incentivizing them to move to highly insured states.