Analysis

Expanding coverage

How primary care physicians are accommodating the newly insured

Are there enough physicians in the US to accommodate the millions of newly insured? If not, how will the health care system manage its growing (and aging) patient population?

Accommodating the newly insured

Are there enough physicians in the US to accommodate the millions of newly insured patients? If not, how will the health care system manage its growing (and aging) patient population?

The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions 2014 Survey of US Physicians shows that 44 percent of physicians are treating more newly insured patients – an important finding for health care stakeholders and decision makers. More primary care physicians (PCPs) (56 percent) experienced an increase in the number of newly insured patients than did surgical specialists (40 percent), non-surgical specialists (38 percent), and other physicians (33 percent). Survey respondents report that this is causing longer appointment wait times and driving PCPs to work longer hours. To cope, some PCPs are adding new physicians and hiring clinical staff to help with care coordination.

How does this compare with the Massachusetts experience with coverage expansion? What impacts will expansion of health care coverage to the newly insured have at national and state levels? What effect will it have on the role of the US safety net system and hospital emergency departments? How will growth in the insured population affect mid-level providers and retail health and urgent care clinics?

Physicians are already experiencing increased demand from a larger patient population. Adapting to that demand is one of the next challenges, not only for physicians, but for many health care stakeholders and decision makers. States and other policy makers may want to consider policy solutions to alleviate physician pressure, including increasing Medicaid primary care service reimbursement rates, sponsoring patient-centered medical homes (PCMH), advancing scope-of-practice standards, and reducing barriers to technology adoption. While physicians will continue to play a critical role in the US health care system, they will likely need to adapt to ever-growing patient numbers and demands. And, they should adapt quickly and prepare to weather the storm. Physician practices should consider redesigning care delivery models, developing new relationships, using data and analytics, and improving patient engagement.

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Primary care physicians with increased newly insured population: Observations and reactions

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