Report: Illinois, US Need More Primary-Care Physicians to Avoid Shortage


Health insurance’s ability to help you drops sharply if you cannot find a primary-care doctor, and it is a problem for 100 million Americans, according to a new report. Researchers from the National Association of Community Health Centers have found one-quarter of “medically disenfranchised” people are children. Joe Dunn, senior vice president of public policy for the association, said one-third of the nation struggles to get an appointment, a percentage which has risen over the past decade.

“That’s largely due to the consolidation across the health care system, and the worsening shortage of primary-care providers,” Dunn explained. “Our health centers, especially in this post-COVID environment, they want to retain and recruit new providers, but it’s just a real challenge.”

According to estimates, Illinois will need about 900 additional primary-care clinicians in 2025 and 1,100 additional providers by 2030 to meet demand. In 2022, Illinois had more than 100 Health Professional Shortage Areas, with about 60% in rural areas, and 40% in urban settings. Dunn pointed out 30 million low-income patients per year depend on community health centers.

“Forty percent of health centers are in rural areas,” Dunn noted. “Those are often in communities where there’s little other kind of network infrastructure to take care of the patients that typically go to a health center. 90% of the patients are at or below the 200% of the federal poverty level.”

According to the Illinois Center for Rural Health, of the 12.7 million people living in Illinois, more than 1.4 million — about 11 % — live in rural Health Professional Shortage Areas. Denise Nix, spokesperson for the group Physicians Retraining and Reentry, an education company which helps specialists retrain to serve as primary care physicians, said the health care system needs more hands on deck to lighten the load.

“Physicians today are struggling with large caseloads, requirements to keep exams short, administrative demands, insurance requirements,” Nix outlined. “Then there’s the burnout that comes with working in a deadly pandemic for the last few years.”

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