Thanks to an acclaimed state initiative, 439,000 more Massachusetts residents have health insurance now than in 2006. Ironically however, many of them cannot find a doctor.
Massachusetts didn’t have enough primary care doctors to begin with, but the flood of newly insured people means that Bay Staters have to wait as long as 100 days to see a PCP. Those who have urgent problems or who are OK seeing a nurse practitioner can get seen sooner, but others have resorted to ER visits, which is what they did before they obtained insurance in the first place.
Legislators have approved many new laws to alleviate the problem. One allows UMass Medical School students to waive tuition in return for a promise to work as a PCP in the state for four years. The state has also agreed to repay medical school loans for PCPs who work in underserved areas for two years. Inexpensive housing loans are also available for PCPs in the state.
Unfortunately, these “initiatives have a long lag time,” says Bruce Auerbach, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society. Auerbach believes that increased payment and reduced administrative burdens would more effectively address the state’s PCP shortage.