The 10 states facing the biggest physician shortages

High poverty and low incomes tied to fewer doctors per residents

Topics: Access to Care, Quality, Performance Improvement, Service, Reimbursement, Finance, Employment, Physician Issues

October 22, 2012

States with higher median incomes and fewer uninsured residents tend to have better physician-to-resident ratios, according to a state-by-state analysis of the looming physician shortage.

The USA Today "24/7 Wall St." analysis is based on American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) State Physicians Workbook data, 2010 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and data from Kaiser Family Foundation. According to AAMC, the national physician shortage will exceed 90,000 doctors by 2020.

  • How hospitals can elevate physician recruitment: The Health Care Advisory Board's best practices.

The 10 states with the lowest physician-to-resident ratios

According to the "24/7 Wall St." analysis, the 10 states with the fewest physicians per resident are:

1. Mississippi (159.4 physicians per 100,000 residents);
2. Arkansas (169.1 physicians);
3. Utah (169.5 physicians);
4. Idaho (172.5 physicians);
5. Texas (176.1 physicians);
6. Alabama (178 physicians);
7. Nevada (178.1 physicians);
8. Oklahoma (178.7 physicians);
9. Wyoming (178.8 physicians); and
10. Georgia (179.9 physicians).

Seven of the states with the 10 lowest physician-to-resident ratios have rates of uninsured residents that are higher than the 15.5% national rate. In addition, the states with low physician-to-resident ratios also tended to have some of the nation's lowest medical resident-to-state resident ratios.

In Mississippi, 18.2% of residents do not have health insurance, and nearly 70% of residents are overweight or obese. The state also has the lowest life expectancy in the country, with the average resident living just 74.8 years.

The 10 states with the highest physician-to-resident ratios

Meanwhile, the analysis found that the 10 states with the most physicians per resident are:

1. Massachusetts (314.8 physicians per 100,000 residents);
2. Maryland (281 physicians);
3. New York (277.4 physicians);
4. Connecticut (273 physicians);
5. Maine (272.1 physicians);
6. Vermont (270.7 physicians);
7. Rhode Island (269 physicians);
8. Hawaii (265.5 physicians);
9. New Hampshire (257.4 physicians); and
10. New Jersey (251.4 physicians).

All 10 states with the highest doctor-to-resident ratios had uninsured patient rates below the national average of 15.5%. The states tended to be the wealthiest in the country, with longer life expectancies, lower obesity rates, and a lower number of smokers.

According to the analysis, Massachusetts has the lowest rate of uninsured in the country, and the state spends $9,200 on health care per resident each year, more than any other state. Meanwhile, Massachusetts residents boast the fifth-lowest obesity rate, the fourth-lowest percentage of smokers, and the sixth-highest life expectancy (Weigley et al., USA Today, 10/20).

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Rating: | P. Douglas Maier | October 22, 2012

Great article. It makes sense that the states with the highest uninsured would also have the fewest physician/resident ratios. It also appears that most of those states are opposed to the ACA "Obamacare". That doesnt' make sense as their uninsured rates should drop and following this lesson, physician/resident ratio should increase. That's politics!