Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Monday, May 05, 2008

Who Will Care for Us?

An Institute of Medicine (IOM) study suggests that there won’t be enough geriatricians when the 78 million baby boomers (like us) begin turning 65 in 2011.

By 2030, there will be an estimated 8,000 geriatricians, but the nation will need 36,000, according to the Association of Directors of Geriatric Academic Programs. Today, there are about 7,100 geriatricians in the U.S. -- a 22% decline from 2000.

The IOM report recommended that all health care workers increase in geriatric competency to offset the shortage in geriatric specialists. It also called for the adoption of interdisciplinary care models and a fundamental change in how health care is reimbursed.

The study cited low reimbursement as the biggest barrier to building the geriatrician supply. In 2005, average geriatrician income was $163,000, compared with $175,000 for a general internist. It’s important to prevent further cuts in Medicare payments so all physicians can continue to accept new Medicare patients. "Reimbursement is a huge barrier," said American College of Physicians President David Dale, MD. "We get relatively low rates for the substantial time it takes to be a good doctor for an older person."

I’m reading an increasing number of articles on the crumbling health care and reimbursement system for aging Boomers. We need to seriously consider what the best health care system is and how to pay for it.

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