Florida Wrestles With Physician Shortage Amid Population Increase

Dec 08, 2023 at 07:42 am by Matt

Florida wrestles with a physician shortage while the population continues to increase, accompanied by a foreseen deficit of approximately 18,000 physicians by 2035. The Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) has recently proposed potential remedies to the House Select Committee on Health Innovation to counteract this impending shortfall of healthcare professionals.

During a presentation, OPPAGA stressed that Florida's existing physician workforce is insufficient to meet the expected demand, posing a substantial threat to healthcare accessibility for residents. Their research indicates that if current patterns persist, only 77% of the projected physician demand by 2035 will be fulfilled.

Physician Shortage Imminent In Spite Of Financial Support

Over the span of a year, OPPAGA diligently compiled data on Florida's Graduate Medical Education program, a collaboration between healthcare facilities and sponsoring institutions such as universities, aimed at training medical school graduates. Funding for the program comes from both federal and state channels, with Medicare contributing 49% and Medicaid contributing 51% during the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Despite considerable financial support, Florida lags behind certain states in retaining physicians post-residency. In 2020, the state ranked fifth, holding onto 79% of graduates who completed both medical school and graduate medical education. By contrast, California and Texas retained 82% and 81% of their graduates, respectively.

Tackling The Challenge

To tackle the challenge of the physician shortage, OPPAGA suggests encouraging Florida medical schools to give preference to in-state students when aligning graduates with healthcare facilities. This recommendation gains significance as Senate President Kathleen Passidomo prioritizes augmenting the physician supply in Florida for the 2024 legislative session, especially given the projected annual growth of 300,000 residents over the next five years.

Wendy Scott, OPPAGA's staff director for health and human services, underscored the need to comprehend why physicians depart the state post-residency. Various reasons were cited, including a desire to be closer to family, pursuing additional training outside Florida, and personal preferences for living in different locations. Scott emphasized the imperative for additional research to identify the specific factors contributing to this trend, transforming the challenge into an opportunity for the state.

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