Primary care is vital to disease prevention, which can help to control spiraling health care costs. Yet the United States has a deficit of nearly 40,000 primary care physicians—a situation that is expected to worsen as the population continues to age and as millions more Americans become insured through health reform.
The map included in this brief shows the number of Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) for primary care in each U.S. state and territory. An HPSA is designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) as having shortages of certain kinds of medical providers. HPSAs may be urban or rural areas, population groups or medical or other public facilities.
Because of this shortage, many people have little access to primary care and increasingly are turning to hospital emergency rooms for care—or going without. The ACA contains dozens of provisions related to health care workforce issues, including strengthening primary care.
- Access to primary care is in jeopardy because of an acute shortage of primary care physicians. The 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) funds efforts to increase the number of primary care doctors.
- Nurse practitioners and physician assistants can play a key role in improving access to quality primary care. The ACA supports increased training opportunities that could add 1,200 nurse practitioners and physician assistants to the workforce.
- The shortage of primary care providers is especially dire in many rural and urban areas. The ACA expands the National Health Service Corps, which covers the cost of medical school for students willing to practice medicine in an underserved area, and provides tax benefits to primary care providers in those areas.