By Andrew Kitchenman (Courtesy of NJ Spotlight)
New Jersey policymakers looking to address a looming shortage of doctors in the state need to act quickly, as the problem appears to be getting worse and more quickly than predicted.
More of the state’s medical residents are planning to leave the state to practice elsewhere. The amount of student debt these new doctors are carrying is growing steadily, forcing those who are entering lower-paying practice areas like family practice or obstetrics/gynecology to consider relocating to lower-cost states with better reimbursement rates.
At the same time, the state is expected to need more primary care doctors to serve the additional insured patients due to the Affordable Care Act. Both legislators and doctors have proposals for reducing the looming shortage of physicians in the state, ranging from enhancing New Jersey’s medical student loan redemption program to paying for state hospitals to launch residency programs.
“We have to have an incentive to keep them in the state,” state Sen. Robert W. Singer (R-Monmouth and Ocean) said of young doctors. “We’re seeing that the older doctors are retiring and new doctors are not coming into the field to replace them. It’s a growing concern.”
That concern is borne out by a recently completed survey of New Jersey’s medical residents conducted by the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals. The survey found that only 34 percent of medical residents planned to stay in the state in 2013, compared with 39 percent in 2012. In addition, 44 percent of residents have student debt exceeding $200,000, up from 38 percent the previous year. For residents planning to specialize in primary care, the debt load is even higher, with 48 percent reporting $200,000 or more in debt.
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