Projecting the Supply and Demand for Primary Care Practitioners Through 2020

This study examines the adequacy of the future supply of primary care practitioners (PCPs) to meet the future demand for primary care services. Data on supply and demand for primary care services in 2010, with demand adjusted for physician shortages in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), are used as a baseline to project supply and demand in 2020 for physicians, nurse practitioners (NPs), and physician assistants (PAs). The model assumes continuation of key trends in service utilization, practitioner practice patterns, and practitioner production. The model also accounts for aging and population growth and the expansion of coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The impact of the Affordable Care Act is modeled under the assumption that all states expand Medicaid. Therefore, the numbers reported here overestimate the demand for primary care services, until such time as all states fully implement the law. Projections of demand for each type of practitioner are based on how these practitioners are currently deployed to provide services.

Demand for primary care services is projected to increase through 2020, due largely to aging and population growth and, to a much lesser extent, the expanded insurance coverage implemented under the Affordable Care Act, which includes a number of investments that strengthen the primary care workforce. Consistent with prior studies, this analysis finds that demand for primary care physicians will grow more rapidly than the physician supply, resulting in a projected shortage of approximately 20,400 full-time equivalent (FTE) physicians

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