Did ObamaCare exacerbate a shortage of doctors?

Answer: Of course it did … it’s simple arithmetic.


In yesterday’s post, I concluded that ObamaCare increased the demand for healthcare by providing health insurance to 20 million previously uninsured Americans … but that ObamaCare didn’t increased the aggregate amount of healthcare that Americans are getting.

Since the supply of healthcare is constrained by too few doctors, the amount of healthcare is just being redistributed

It’s a zero sum game …  previously uninsured people are getting more healthcare … previously insured people are getting less healthcare … and total healthcare delivered is staying about the same.



I got a few questions about the incremental doctor shortage created by ObamaCare, so I pulled together a quick & dirty  estimate.


Let’s walk through the above chart …

Prior to ObamaCare, about 270 million had health insurance.

Tech note: These are best-guess estimates derived from multiple sources.

For this analysis, the exact numbers don’t swing the answer much..

And, triangulating from several sources, there are about 850,000 practicing physicians in the U.S.

Stats note: About 1/2 of doctors are primary care and about 1/2 are specialists.

That’s works out to 318 insured patients per doctor.


Most sources indicate that pre-ObamaCare, there was already a shortage of doctors.

Said differently, the aggregate pool of doctors  was operating (pardon the pun) at full capacity.

Personal note: That makes sense to me …  given scheduling challenges and waiting room camp-outs that I’ve experienced.

So, more doctors are required to deliver healthcare to the 20 million people added to the insured population.

How many more doctors?

Simple: 20 million divided by the 318 insureds per doctor … about 63,000.

Each year the pool of doctors increases by about 12,500 … that’s newly minted doctors less retirements and quitters.

So net-net, ObamaCare has induced an incremental doctors’ shortage about 50,000 doctors.


Bottom line: The healthcare system is supply constrained … so adding demand (i.e. more insurance coverage) doesn’t increase the amount of aggregate healthcare … it just redistributes it.

Again, that’s not a policy conclusion … it’s just supply & demand economics … and simple arithmetic.



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