Massachusetts health care: long waits, poor access

“The percentage of primary care practices closed to new patients is the highest it’s ever been as recorded by the Medical Society.”  — Massachusetts Medical Society

Is this what we should expect if insurance is mandatory across the United States? More from study linked above:

Primary Care: Long waits, more practices are closed to new patients

The primary care specialties of internal medicine and family medicine have been under intense pressure with the addition of some 440,000 newly insured residents as a result of the state’s health care reform law. That pressure continues, as the 2009 study marks the fourth consecutive year that both of these specialties have been found to be in short supply.

More practices closed to new patients: More primary care physicians have closed their practices to new patients, continuing a trend from prior years. The telephone survey of physician practices showed that the percentage of family medicine physicians who are no longer accepting new patients has increased over the past three years from 30% in 2007 to 40% in 2009. The percentage of internal medicine physicians no longer accepting new patients has also increased, from 49% in 2007 to 56% in 2009. These are the highest percentages of primary care practices closed to new patients the Medical Society has ever recorded in its Physician Workforce Studies.

Wait times: Long wait times for appointments for new patients continue to be a problem, resulting in delayed access and care. For internal medicine, the average wait time is 44 days, six days shorter that last year’s figure of 50 days. For family medicine, the average wait time is 44 days, eight days longer than last year’s figure of 36 days.

Community hospital shortages: The Medical Society’s study also found that primary care physicians are some of the most critical scarcities facing community hospitals: 75% of community hospitals reported shortages in internal medicine, and 58% reported shortages in family medicine. Both are substantial increases (19% greater for internal medicine; 14% greater for family medicine) over the 2008 study.

(via Galen.org)

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