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Healthcare Policy Endangering Public

Healthcare Policy Endangering Public

Primary Care Physicians in Crisis

If you live in New Jersey, arguably the greatest threat to your health and welfare is not pollution, contamination or disease. It's healthcare policy driving your family doctor out of state or out of business.

A policy that is so adverse to primary care physicians – those who care for people 18 and older - that of the 1,761 primary care physicians training in New Jersey teaching hospitals in 2015, more than 99 of 100 chose to leave New Jersey upon graduation according to the New Jersey chapter of the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP).

It gets worse. Virtually no doctors move to New Jersey and most of the primary care physicians who put down New Jersey roots decades ago are approaching or past retirement age. The situation is so bad that New Jersey specialists now outnumber primary care doctors by almost 10 to one. That leaves New Jersey near dead last for primary care physicians per capita in the United States and its territories, at triple the national average at just one adult primary care physician for every 3,760 adults.

Conversely, there is one specialist, from allergy to oncology and beyond, for every 387 New Jersey citizens. The national average is nearly double at one for every 714.

America's most vulnerable population, our seniors, have a primary care doctor for every 192 seniors nationally, New Jersey seniors have one doctor for every 657.

Why is this important?

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, "Greater use of primary care has been associated with lower costs, higher patient satisfaction, fewer hospitalizations and emergency department visits, and lower mortality."

That's a healthcare jargon way of saying that there is a mountain of evidence worldwide that when there is a shortage of primary care physicians, people pay more, suffer more, and die more.

This is all because of the different roles primary care and specialist physicians have. Specialists are experts at treating a specific condition, usually in its acute phase. Primary care physicians are experts at preventing, slowing, stalling and even reversing all of a patients' conditions.

Simple logic leads to cause and effect. If there are too few primary care physicians, chronic disease often progresses unrecognized, untreated, and unabated to acute phases because the few physicians left are too busy to manage them.

An ample supply of sick people requires even more specialists and fuels hospital growth with more diagnostics, procedures, and inpatient stays. Then hospitals start to buy specialists to supercharge their growth and everyone feels good about themselves because they are helping so many sick people.

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