Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Saturday, April 05, 2008
  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.
4000+ Patients (customers) is insane! Just for shits & giggles, has anyone done a survey, starting with 1900 till present, of the number of doctors practicing in the area year by year? And comparing it to the population, and the customer/doctor ratio?

Tell your friend to go to the emergency room and collapse on the floor at the front desk! They may get help, if after rifling through their pockets first, the clerk can find an insurance card. Otherwise they will just have a number stuck in their ear and rolled over to the waiting area to wait their turn!
Greg - part of the Senate President's health care cost bill is aimed at providing incentives to increase the amount of primary care docs in the commonwealth. Increasing the number of seats at UMass medical, looking at some level of student debt relief, and trying to alleviate some level of the cost of living for docs committed to primary care have all been raised as potential (albeit partial) solutions.

Another, cost free way, to reduce the burden on the current primary care population is to make private insurers list Nurse Practitioners as primary care providers. NPs can alleivate the long wait and can address many of the issues people wait to see their PC Doc for.

Thanks for keeping the spotlight on the issue.
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