Good News for Obamacare: More Medical Students Are Becoming Family Doctors

Written by Sy Mukherjee

The number of U.S. medical school graduates choosing to go into family medicine and primary care rose for the fourth consecutive year, according to a press release from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). That’s great news for the millions of Americans who will become newly insured under Obamacare and Medicare in the coming years, since many industry experts feared there wouldn’t be enough primary care physicians to meet their medical needs.

Family medicine, unlike more specialized medical fields, involves caring for patients in a comprehensive way that involves everything from diagnosing and treating a wide range of common illnesses to promoting preventative health measures that might prevent the need for more specialized care in the future. In 2009, only 58 percent of U.S. medical school graduates chose residencies in family medicine, but now more than 67 percent of first-year family medicine residents graduate from American medical schools.

“This is another indicator that medical students realize primary care is the foundation of health care,” said Dr. Perry Pugno, vice president for medical education at the AAFP, in a statement. “The number of students choosing family medicine… continues to increase, and the attendance at the AAFP’s National Conference for Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students has really increased. All of these point to a trend toward primary care careers.”

Many health experts have feared that America is in the midst of a widespread doctor shortage that may prevent millions of people from receiving essential primary care, especially as millions of Americans become insured for these types of services under Obamacare in 2014. Estimates from the Association of American Medical Colleges pegs the shortage at 13,000 doctors today and projects it to be ten times that number by 2024. The new numbers are cause for optimism, but doctors warn that it still may not be adequate to meet future needs.

“Taken together, these show the ship may be turning,” Pugno noted in his statement. “But it isn’t turning fast enough to meet future needs, given the demand that will grow as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of insurance coverage and the aging of our population.”

Even so, the surge in family doctors is also good news for Medicare. The Wall Street Journal had found that the number of doctors refusing to serve Medicare patients had increased almost three-fold between 2009 and 2012 due to uncertainty over reimbursement rates. But a survey commissioned by USA Today found that the number of U.S. physicians accepting new Medicare patients had risen by about 33 percent between 2007 and 2011, largely thanks to the influx of new primary care doctors highlighted by the AAFP. These doctors are more willing to accept Medicare patients than older physicians who are dropping out of the health care system.

New medical graduates’ interest in primary care and their willingness to take on Medicare patients may signal that young doctors understand the types of resources that will be needed under health reform. Recent evidence has shown that medical schools have also been changing the way they teach their students in response to Obamacare, emphasizing the sort of team-based comprehensive care that the law encourages and slowly shifting away from a model that encourages new doctors to choose specialty medical professions that may pay more than family medicine.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener3 years ago


Dennis D.
Dennis D3 years ago

The link above will take you the website where it lays it out.

Dennis D.
Dennis D3 years ago

Mary B. I do not believe the ACA cover that idea.

The ACA fundamentally is more administrative. The ACA addressees such things as your medical files. How they are handled. The way in which makes it more streamlined in accessing those files anywhere in the USA.

It also makes it clear to the insurance companies that money must be used for a persons healthcare.
"80/20 Rule

The 80/20 Rule generally requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of the money they take in on premiums on your health care and quality improvement activities instead of administrative, overhead, and marketing costs."

Though I suspect what will be part of the next step will be getting the doctors malpractice insurance back down to a more reasonable rate. How that might be accomplished is not going to be easy or come with a simple answer. But if successful, a doctor may not feel the need to charge so much as the doctors feel the need to do so at present.

Mary B.
Mary B3 years ago

Dennis D........I think I made my statement too simplistic.....A Doc here CAN charge for forms, etc., but I was referring to basic health where you would go to have your meds updated, annual checks, injuries, illness not yet diagnosed.... Of course elective things like plastic surgey, some eye procedures (lasik), some cosmetic things, etc., will be a patients responsibility.......So are you saying that more people may be covered, but Docs (US) can still gouge if they feel they are not getting enough money?....Can this be addressed before the full ACA comes into full play?.....

Dennis D.
Dennis D3 years ago

Mary B. Down here in the States. A doctor can charge anything they want.

However a doctor who has signed on with any one the numerous health insurance companies will only charge what the insurance company will allow. unless the patient is out of network.. meaning the doctor is not on the list for this patient or the doctor does not take that particular insurance. Then the doctor can and does charge over what the private insurance company might pay.

An out of network doctor is often payed at a lower rate. Sometimes not at all.. The doctor can go after the patient for the money.

That is if the patient is even going to pay in the first place....

Natasha Salgado
natasha salgado3 years ago


Rainbow W.
.3 years ago

That’s why you’re on the phone umpteen hours with your carrier or provider because they screwed up. Have you ever wondered why you don’t see insurance fraud but there’s Medicare/Medicaid fraud out the kazoo? Medicare/Medicaid actually pays, insurance does not.

This is why we need a one payer system modeled after France, Norway, or Sweden: they got it right.

Rainbow W.
.3 years ago

“Suba, I'm just quoting what was shared with me by a DOCTOR! “

Your doctor is a rethuglican. I can tell you [working in a profession that deals with insurance] obamacare, for the most part will be good. The one thing that is bad is mandatory insurance; that will only enrich the insurance industry and lobbys.

Insurance is a scam. First of all medical care isn’t that expensive: the industry tweaks the numbers. My first wife was a statition and economist. She did a study on health care, basically balanced the countries medical check book. What she found made no sense. If we spend as much in health care as the industry tells us [as far as insurance companies] they would all be running in the negative; when actually they make billions. One reason is corporations pay no taxes and they feed the numbers they want us to use.

Insurance is like this: you pay a premium and copay. That’s actually accounts for overhead [example: they tell you an MRI costs $3K but it actually costs $300, your copay]. The insurance company pays nothing. How the medical profession makes extra $: the insurance company denies claims or the provider intentionally fails to file the claim properly, therefore the patient will owe more money. One of my software developer friends showed me a program his company made for the industry: it flagged certain accounts and intentionally put the wrong code in. That’s why you’re on the phone umpteen hours with your carrier or provider be

Mary B.
Mary B3 years ago

Jenevieve.... I am wondering about the legality and even if it's ethical for doctors to charge a fee over and above....that doesn't seem right......our docs here in BC can charge extra for forms being filled out like work related forms or applications for disability.....if they're saying you would get some kind of preferred treatment or time with him/ her I think that's appalling

Jenevieve P.
Past Member 3 years ago

Suba, I'm just quoting what was shared with me by a DOCTOR! You have no need to perpetuate trying to find another Care2 vicitm that you can claim to be an idiot. You yourself, nor anyone else has the capacity to project what will result from Obama care next January.
.. Ever heard of "Just noticing what shows up?" Maybe you don't have conversations with individuals and doctors who either work in health care, or are in the process of dealing with the healthcare conundrum, as many of us do. I'm to assume that you have never received a pamphlet from your doctor notifying you that he is becoming a "Conceirge Doctor" so he can make a profit, verses a profit loss due to the decrease in insurance reimbursements..? Accordingly, if you pay the Dr a $2,500 fee per year, THEN he'll be able to provide "Quality care" thus being able to see you this afternoon, or after his normal hours, upon taking "paying pts" after 6:30 or upon an online consultation.. One of my other dr's is charging $5,000. Now tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about Suba! Maybe you're the one who is not informed upon the real facts and realities of what is yet to come!