A major expansion is underway at the nation’s medical schools that will sharply increase the number of new physicians entering the workforce over the next decade to care for an aging Baby Boom generation. But critics say the move could backfire since medical schools are still channeling too many young doctors into highly paid specialties instead of primary care, which will exacerbate the problem of rising health care costs.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) unveiled a new survey Thursday showing the number of students entering the nation’s 137 accredited medical schools will surge nearly 30 percent from 2002 levels to 21,376 in 2016, meeting a goal set in 2006 when it was widely believed an aging population would require far more physicians. About 19,638 first-year students will enter medical school this fall, up from 16,488 in 2002.
But the campaign to increase the number of practicing physicians, which has been spearheaded AAMC, has come under fire in recent years on two fronts. Health care reformers say the increased enrollment has not addressed the ongoing shortage of primary care physicians, especially in poor and rural areas, which will only grow worse when 30 million previously uninsured patients seek compensated care after 2014 because of the Affordable Care Act.