13 Counties Short Of Primary Care Doctors
By Alissa Gulin, Daily Record
Maryland’s supply of primary care physicians is insufficient in 13 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions, according to a report presented to the Maryland Health Care Commission at its monthly meeting Thursday, even if the statewide balance “appears adequate” overall.
The Maryland Health Workforce study, compiled by contractor IHS Inc., found that while the number of primary care physicians matches the overall estimated demand, those doctors are concentrated primarily in urban and suburban areas, and thirteen Maryland Counties short of doctors.
The study’s authors revised an estimate announced earlier this week that reported a statewide doctor shortage of 750. MHCC Executive Director Ben Steffen said that number is no longer considered accurate.
As for mental health, the report found that Maryland’s supply of psychiatrists appears adequate to provide a level of care equal to the national average. However, the report said they are concentrated in three areas: Baltimore and Montgomery counties and Baltimore city, which account for 71 percent of the state’s supply but only 41 percent of statewide demand.
In some counties, particularly in Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, there is a 50 percent to 75 percent shortage of psychiatrists, according to the report, and in three rural counties (Somerset, Caroline and Kent), the shortage is even greater.
Steffen said the report uses a different model for evaluating the size of the state’s health care workforce than the approach used in the past.
“Historically, states including Maryland have looked at the supply and then benchmarked their supply against national averages,” Steffen said.
“There’s been dissatisfaction with that approach, and [federal officials] have been looking at ways to more carefully examine and evaluate physician supply by measuring the demand in different localities. This model does that, but rather than looking at this as a conclusion, I look at this as the first step in finding the best way to measure the workforce.”
At Thursday’s meeting, the MHCC also approved the extension of a state program that subsidizes health insurance for small businesses.
The Maryland Health Insurance Partnership was created in 2008 to help employers with two to nine employees pay insurance premiums for their workers. State officials had planned to close the program to new enrollees on Jan. 1 because federal tax credits were supposed to be available by that date for the same purpose.
Because a state agency decided in October to delay launching the program that would make the federal tax credits available, the MHCC voted to extend the partnership until that platform, called the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), is up and running.