NYTimes Covers our Local Primary Care Crisis
The share [of primary care physicians] who accept new patients has dropped, to barely half in the case of internists, and the average wait by a new patient for an appointment with an internist rose to 52 days in 2007 from 33 days in 2006. In westernmost Berkshire County, newly insured patients are being referred 25 miles away, said Charles E. Joffe-Halpern, director of an agency that enrolls the uninsured.
The wait to see my physician for a non-acute issue is over 4 months.
Regular readers may recall my rant
about my wife's inability to get an appointment with a primary care doctor after our long-time family physician left the state. I was party to another similar conversation with a friend just last week when she called Williamstown Medical for an appointment and was told that her doctor had too many patients (4000+) and she had to find someone else.
If the legislature wants to do something that's relatively cheap yet incredibly effective and popular, pass a Family Practice Incentive package with student debt and tax relief. Weight the benefits to encourage physicians to locate in areas with high patient-to-doctor ratios. And make it a stipulation that if a practice takes advantage of this program, they MUST accept Mass Health and Medicare patients.