We’ve heard of ‘food deserts’, where certain areas in the U.S., specifically those in urban fiscal decline, are without a
Photo by Thiago Miqueias, Brazil
grocery store or anywhere to procure food. Now a new phenomena has occurred in more expansive areas that include entire states, which may be labeled ‘physician deserts’.
Rural areas and those areas significantly below the poverty level in the U.S. are experiencing a sharp decline in physicians who treat children. The shortage is so extreme that a few states, including Arkansas, Oklahoma and Mississippi have a 3000 to child doctor ratio, according to fiercehealthcare.com. Part of the reasons cited were high student loan debt and the cuts in public aid (healthcare) reimbursements. Doctors seem to gravitate towards higher income areas where families are fully insured. Apparently, the U.S. government is trying to rectify this disparity by ‘forgiving’ loans and helping doctors with their education. With implementation of Obama Care, further cuts in public aid are expected and the fear is that some doctors would rather have a steady income flow rather than getting help with their loans. The real irony here might be that what began as altruistic movement towards humankind is causing an even greater disparity between classes and geography.
Since much of the publicly funded children’s medicaid is funded by states, Dr. Scott Shipman, who lead the paper submitted to Pediatrics, this situation is in danger of getting worse.
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