Analysis: Twelve States Face Disproportionate Threat Of Family Physician Retirement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, June 21, 2019

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Leslie Champlin
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Analysis: Twelve States Face Disproportionate Threat
Of Family Physician Retirement


WASHINGTON, DC — As health care policymakers grapple with a current shortage of primary care physicians, they would do well to look into the future. The aging out and retirement of family physicians could pose an even greater strain on the primary care physician workforce, particularly in rural areas, according to an analysis by Robert Graham Center researchers.

Writing in “Ensuring Primary Care Access in States with an Aging Family Physician Workforce,” researcher Elizabeth Wilkinson and her colleagues identified 12 rural states that are at particular risk of a worsening primary care physician shortage. Those states—Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Mexico and Arizona—depend on primary care physicians for their care and have a high percentage of doctors at or near retirement age.

Wilkinson and her colleagues analyzed data from the 2018 American Medical Association Physician Masterfile, Physician Compare and the 2016 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ National Plan and Provider Enumeration System to identify the total number of family physicians, geriatricians, general internists and general pediatricians.

With that data, they identified a pattern for 12 rural states: at least four in 10 of their primary care workforce comprised family physicians and at least four in 10 of those doctors were older than 55. Dubbing them “40-40 states,” Wilkinson said they faced a disproportionate threat of family physician retirement.

“With nearly 40% of U.S. family physicians older than 55 years, policymakers should support broad-spectrum training models that produce enough primary care physicians to meet state population needs,” Wilkinson wrote.

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About the Robert Graham Center

The Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care works to improve individual and population health by enhancing the delivery of primary care. The Center staff generates and analyzes evidence that brings a family medicine and primary care perspective to health policy deliberations at local, state, and national levels.

Founded in 1999, the Robert Graham Center is an independent research unit affiliated with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The information and opinions contained in research from the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the AAFP.