Maryland Has 16% Fewer Practicing Physicians Than National Average, Report Finds

Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report
http://www.kaisernetwork.org

Maryland has 16% fewer physicians in clinical practice than the national per capita average, a shortage that could become severe by 2015, according to a report released on Monday by MedChi, the state’s medical society, and the Maryland Hospital Society, the Washington Post reports. For the report, presented last month to the Governor’s Task Force on Health Care Access and Reimbursement, analysts interviewed administrators at 52 hospitals in the state and several medical residency program directors. Analysts also surveyed primary and specialty care physicians (Levine, Washington Post, 1/8).

According to the report, the state has 179 physicians delivering care for every 100,000 residents, below the national average of 212. In total, the state has about 25,000 licensed physicians, making it the second-highest rate per capita of any state, but nearly 40% are nonpracticing and engage in teaching, research and administrative duties, according to the study. Many of the nonpracticing physicians work at the state’s two large medical schools or for the federal government. Areas in which the state lacks the most physicians include: primary care, emergency medicine, anesthesiology, hematology, oncology, thoracic and vascular surgery, psychiatry and dermatology.

The study estimates that the physician shortage will become worse by 2015 as the state’s population ages and physicians retire (Salganik, Baltimore Sun, 1/8). Southern Maryland, followed by western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, are expected to be hit hardest (Washington Post, 1/8).

The report recommended that Maryland do more to attract and retain physicians, mostly by increasing the rates that insurers pay doctors. The report also proposed lowering the cap on malpractice premiums to reduce liability premiums and expanding loan-forgiveness programs to encourage physicians to practice in the state (Baltimore Sun, 1/8). The report does not include a cost estimate for the recommendations. According to the report, “Unless medical and political leaders find ways to reduce physician shortages, patient care will suffer” (Washington Post, 1/8).

However, some researchers argue that “there’s no clear evidence that more physicians make people healthier,” the Baltimore Sun reports (Baltimore Sun, 1/8).
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