An unfortunate by-product of the fundamental tenet of the ACA (increasing access for Medicaid beneficiaries) is the two-ton health policy gorilla in the room: the presumed lack of (primary care) physicians to make up for the major physician demand predicted by mid-to-late decade and what to do about it. The NYT has a piece today describing this scenario in about as an access-impoverished region as one is likely to encounter — an economically depressed area in Southern California.
In the Inland Empire, encompassing the counties of Riverside and San Bernardino, the shortage of doctors is already severe. The population of Riverside County swelled 42 percent in the 2000s, gaining more than 644,000 people. It has continued to grow despite the collapse of one of the country’s biggest property bubbles and a jobless rate of 11.8 percent in the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metro area.
The article provides few answers or policymaking clues into the problem. Perhaps that’s the intent. Awareness of the looming physician shortage amid one of the most sweeping changes to healthcare policy of the last 50 years as more of a public policy issue — and slightly less of a healthcare policy issue. Just slightly.