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Michigan health experts say primary care doctor shortage will worsen if not addressed

Michigan health expert speaks on state of health care industry
Michigan health expert speaks on state of health care industry 02:21

(CBS DETROIT) — New reports suggest that the shortage of primary care physicians in the U.S. could reach astronomical proportions within the next decade, with some expecting a shortage of nearly 50,000 nationwide 10 years from now.

"People need to know the situation," said Dr. Jinping Xu, a professor at Wayne State University.

Several reports released recently outline the state of the health care profession, including a recent report conducted by the Milbank Memorial Fund called "The Health of US Primary Care: 2024 Scorecard Report — No One Can See You Now," which found there are five major reasons why access to primary care is getting worse. 

Another report conducted by the American Medical Association came to similar conclusions that a primary doctor shortage is worsening. 

"They project a 48,000 primary care shortage by 2034," Xu said.

Xu said the primary care workforce is not growing fast enough for the population, and one of the main reasons is that primary care doctors are overworked and underpaid. 

According to Xu, primary care physicians do important work like preventative care that could help patients avoid expensive operations or illnesses that could save money 

"Primary care is the only specialty that can prolong people's [lives], improve people's life expectancy," Xu said.

Primary care physicians get paid far less than specialists, and she said she believes that is preventing medical students from pursuing the field. 

"Nationally, the primary physician works hard and has a lot of responsibilities but not well compensated compared to other specialties, so if you and me are in the same class and we have the same amount of debt, but you chose a specialty, I'm choosing to be a family physician, my pay is about half of yours," Xu said.

Moving forward, Xu believes there needs to be more programs to help cover the education costs of those pursuing being a family physician, as is the case with a program called MIDOCs.  

However, this is a state-funded program, and Xu said nationally lawmakers need to do more to make sure to inspire medical students to pursue family care, and more needs to be done to retain family doctors in order to address the doctor shortage. 

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