52,000 more primary care doctors needed by 2025, researchers say

The U.S. will need thousands of additional primary care doctors in years to come.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The United States will need an additional 52,000 primary care doctors to cope with population growth, newly insured people and an aging population, a group of researchers has forecast.

The researchers -- from several institutions including Georgetown University and the Robert Graham Center, Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, Washington, D.C. – looked at several factors to come up with their total. Others have projected different numbers but agree that there will be a shortage of doctors.

In this projection, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, the authors considered population growth, the longer lives of people and the passage of the Affordable Care Act to come up with the 52,000 figure.

“Population growth will be the greatest driver of expected increase in primary care utilization,” the study’s authors wrote. And insurance expansion will contribute the need for just 8,000 of those doctors, the researchers said.


In 2008, Americans made 462 million office visits to primary care doctors (about 1.6 visits per person per year). That’s projected to reach 565 million in 2025, the researchers said. The American Medical Assn. says there were 246,090 primary care doctors working in direct patient care in 2010.

The Affordable Care Act will expand health insurance to an additional 34 million people, the researchers said. And President Obama has called for an expansion of primary care doctors to cope with that.

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