Retirements by baby-boomer doctors, nurses could strain overhaul
Since the passage of the health-care law in March, much has been said about the coming swarm of millions of retiring baby boomers, and the strain they will put on the nation's health-care system. That's only half the problem. Overlooked in the conversation is a particular group of boomers: doctors and nurses who are itching to call it quits. Health-care economists and other experts say retirements in that group over the next 10 to 15 years will greatly weaken the health-care workforce and leave many Americans who are newly insured under the new legislation without much hope of finding a doctor or nurse.
Nearly 40 percent of doctors are 55 or older, according to the Center for Workforce Studies of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Included in that group are doctors whose specialties will be the pillars of providing care in 2014, when the overhaul kicks in; family medicine and general practitioners (37 percent); general surgeons (42 percent); pediatrics (33 percent), and internal medicine and pediatrics (35 percent). About a third of the much larger nursing workforce is 50 or older, and about 55 percent expressed an intention to retire in the next 10 years, according to a Nursing Management Aging Workforce Survey by the Bernard Hodes Group. New registered nurses are flowing from colleges, but not enough to replace the number planning to leave the profession.
"Moving into the future, we see a very large shortage of nurses, about 300,000," said Peter Buerhaus, a nurse and health-care economist and a professor at Vanderbilt University. "That number does not account for the demand created by reform. That's a knockout number. It knocks the system down. It stops it."
In a article for the Journal of the American Medical Association, Buerhaus and colleagues Douglas Staiger and David Auerbach predicted that there will be at least 100,000 fewer doctors in the workplace than the 1.1 million the federal government projects will be needed in 2020 under the health-care overhaul.
This is hardly a partisan thing, so let's avoid using this thread to bicker about the health care bill. Something needs to be done about the ridiculous system in which the AMA is allowed to set quotas for the number of doctors that graduate each year. There is absolutely no way we can hope to keep costs under control when there is a shortage of doctors.