Monday, February 25, 2008
National Women's Law Center has been blogging on women and health reform and posts weekly on a topic in this series. This week's topic concerns primary care physicians and provides some helpful background on why primary care is so important. The blogger states,
Folks who have health insurance coverage often wonder about the need for health care reform – and “what’s in it for them.” I would say that my recent experience in trying to find a primary care physician answers the question: plenty.
When I came to work at the National Women’s Law Center last summer, my change in health benefit plans meant that I needed to find new doctors. I had good health insurance coverage so I thought I was okay – until I tried to find a primary care physician (and believe me, I was prepared!). I had a list of eight doctors who were recommended by trusted sources and I began to make calls. With each call, my dismay grew. I found that of the eight doctors on my list, three were not taking any new patients at all, two were not taking patients with insurance (self-pay patients only), and the final three had an average three month (!) wait for an appointment.
After this experience, I was not at all surprised to read this new report that documents a decline in the number of U.S. primary care doctors. The report acknowledges that primary care professionals are undervalued in our health system, despite ample evidence that primary care patients (when compared to other patients) are more likely to receive preventive services, better manage their chronic illnesses and report satisfaction with their care. What’s more, primary care is generally more cost-effective than care provided through specialists or in hospital settings.