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New AAMC report shows continuing projected physician shortage

Press releases may be edited for formatting or style | March 26, 2024 Business Affairs

Other key findings from the report include:

Demographics — specifically, population growth and aging — continue to be the primary drivers for increasing the need for more doctors to meet the health care needs of tomorrow. By 2036, the U.S. population is projected to grow by 8.4%. Additionally, the population aged 65 and older is projected to grow by 34.1%, with an increase of 54.7% in the size of the population aged 75 and older. Since older Americans tend to need more health care and access more physicians, the AAMC projects this trend will lead to a substantial growth in demand, particularly for the specialists they need most often.
A large portion of the physician workforce is nearing the traditional retirement age. Physicians aged 65 or older are 20% of the clinical physician workforce, and those between age 55 and 64 are 22% of the clinical physician workforce. As a result, a significant number of physicians will reach retirement age within the next decade — if they have not already. The AAMC projects that this will significantly decrease the physician supply in the coming years.
In addition, the AAMC examined and found that if communities underserved by the nation’s health care system could obtain care at the same rate as populations with better access to care, the nation would have needed approximately 202,800 more physicians as of 2021. This is more than five times the magnitude of current shortfall estimates based on current utilization.
Because these estimates look at alternatives to current utilization, these estimates were excluded from physician shortfall ranges, which are all based on current utilization patterns.
The report confirms that lifting the federal statutory cap on Medicare support for GME will help alleviate but not eliminate the current and projected doctor shortage. Bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress, the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act (H.R. 2389/S. 1302), would help address the physician shortage by gradually increasing the number of Medicare-supported residency positions by 14,000 over seven years. This increase would allow the United States to make even more progress toward providing the necessary primary care and specialty physicians necessary to meet the country’s workforce needs. This important legislation would build upon Congress’ historic investment in GME in 2020 and 2022 to help expand and diversify the physician workforce and improve access to care for patients and communities across the country.

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