Photo Credit: Mike StockerBrace yourself for longer lines at the doctor’s office. Whether you’re employed and insured, elderly and on Medicare, or poor and covered by Medicaid, the Florida Medical Association says there’s a growing shortage of doctors — especially specialists — available to provide you with medical care.
And if the Florida Legislature goes along with Gov. Rick Scott’s recommendation to offer Medicaid coverage to an additional 1 million Floridians — part of the Affordable Care Act that takes effect next January — the FMA says that shortage will only get worse. “Florida needs more doctors and it needs more nurses, and it needs them working together in teams,” said Rebecca O’Hara, a lobbyist for the FMA.
About 15 million Floridians have health insurance today, and Obamacare, which requires most adults to have coverage by January, could add as many as 2.5 million more. One million would come through a potential expansion of the federal-state Medicaid program that Scott announced this week he was backing. The others would be the result of new mandates requiring employers and individuals to have insurance or be fined.
Currently, the state has 44,804 doctors, but about 5,600 of them are expected to retire in the next five years. And even though Florida has opened three new medical schools in the past dozen years, the state isn’t producing as many doctors as it needs. Scott’s budget this year has $80 million to fund programs to train 700 new residents a year, in hopes they’ll remain in the state.
Of all patients, people covered by Medicaid may have the hardest time finding a doctor; only 59 percent of the state’s physicians are taking new Medicaid patients, according to a Kaiser Health News study.
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