Universal health care and the physician shortage

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The presidential candidates are fighting over who would do the most to increase the number of Americans with health insurance and expand access to care. But their plans don’t ensure that there will be enough doctors and nurses will treat all those new patients, argues a report expected to be released later today . . .

. . . And, as the report notes, some in Washington are acting on the issue. Democratic Sen. Joe Biden has proposed increasing medical residency programs in states with low population-to-resident ratios.

The solution is not more residency slots, nor opening more medical schools. This will simply increase the number of specialists, which would not be helpful.

What is needed is to give medical students a real, financial, reason to choose primary care over a specialty. Reforming how physicians are paid, closing the salary disparity between primary care and specialists, and total forgiveness of student loans for those who choose primary care would be a good start.

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