AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: Will it worsen Hawai`i’s physician shortage?

Dr. Kelley Withy heads the Hawai`i Physician Workforce Assessment at the University of Hawai`i John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM). She was asked, on Oct. 1, 2013, to describe what the implementation of the Affordable Care Act may have on the physicians shortage in the state.

Watch the interview to learn more, or if you can’t watch at the moment, here are some highlights:

An estimated 100,000 people in Hawai`i will be seeking coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That’s about a 4% increase in the number of people expected to be seeking health care services.

The existing Hawai`i physician shortage statewide is “severe,” according to Withy, whose workforce study information is also available on line at Physician Workforce Assessment. The current deficit is 700 MDs, based on what Hawai`i should have to adequately cover its population. The assessment is funded through a fee on MD licenses which was approved by the Hawai`i State Legislature to qualify the situation, and try to both attract to Hawai`i and educate more of our own home-grown health care providers.

–The shortage of physicians is expected to worsen because of two key factors. Our population is becoming among the country’s oldest. And our physicians themselves are aging. About 30% of doctors currently treating Hawai`i patients already are at the age where they could retire.

–The workforce in Hawai`i is also short of other health care professionals including Nurse Practitioners.

–Eventually under the ACA, the goal is to establish well-connected “patient centered medical homes”, where teams of providers offer coordinated care under the direction of the practitioners who know them best.


Editor’s Note: Mahalo to reporter/anchor Chris Tanaka of Hawai`i News Now for assisting in our UH MED NOW interview. The HNN stations asked to interview Dr. Withy on the topic, and UH MED Now recorded its own videotape of her interview to share here, allowing more of Dr. Withy’s comments on this critical issue available on-line.

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