Study shows dramatic primary care shortage in rural areas

by Lisa Spellman, UNMC public relations | December 14, 2012

A UNMC study found that Nebraska woefully lacks primary care physicians across the state and the shortage is even more dramatic in rural parts of the state. "The number of primary care physicians in Nebraska is 30 percent lower than previously reported by the American Medical Association (AMA) and rural areas are hit the hardest," said Jim Stimpson, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health Policy in the UNMC College of Public Health and co-author of the report. "This is alarming in light of the thousands of people who will be entering the system seeking care as a result of the health care reform law."

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Gerald Luckey, M.D., is part of a rare breed - the rural primary care physician. A recent UNMC study shows a dramatic lack of primary care physicians in rural Nebraska.

Numbers don't lie Currently there are 1,410 primary care physicians in Nebraska, Dr. Stimpson said. It's anticipated that the state will need 1,685 primary care physicians to meet the increased demand resulting from health care reform by 2014. The study determined that there are 63 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents, as compared to 84 as reported by the AMA. And of the 93 counties in Nebraska, 11 -- all rural -- do not have a primary care physician, Dr. Stimpson said. Clock is ticking Another alarming finding, he said, is the number of primary care physicians older than 65 has grown by 78 percent in the past five years. As these physicians start to retire, Dr. Simpson said, it will add significantly to the overall shortage of primary care physicians in the state. Diversity picture improves On a positive note, Dr. Stimpson said the study found that ethnic diversity among primary care physicians increased by seven percent in the past five years. Also, the ratio of women to men shifted over the past five years as women now have an 11 percent higher share of the primary care physician workforce.

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