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Report: U.S. Needs to Invest in Primary Care

February 22, 2023

Many U.S. communities are facing a shortfall of primary care physicians, according to a new report released today.

The report—from the Milbank Memorial Fund and The Physicians Foundation—offers an assessment of primary care in the U.S. and the need to invest in our health care workforce. The new report includes a tracking tool to measure the trends in primary care over time, financing, access, workforce development, and research.

“Given declining life expectancy, racial and ethnic health disparities, the current epidemic of mental health needs, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and other nationwide issues that primary care can help address, these findings represent an urgent call to policymakers and other stakeholders,” the report notes.

Among the key takeaways:

  • A primary care shortage:  Only about 20 percent of physicians completing their residency were practicing primary care two years later during 2020.
  • Pennsylvania pipeline:  Across the commonwealth, 17 percent of the new physician workforce entered primary care during 2020, down from 18.6 percent during 2012.
  • Lacking regular care:  During 2020, about 27 percent of U.S. adults and 22.8 percent of Pennsylvania adults reported they had no usual source of care or used the emergency room as their usual source of care.
    • About 10 percent of U.S. children and 6.3 percent of Pennsylvania children did not have a usual source for health care.
  • Spending trends:  For all insurance types, total U.S. health care spending allocated to primary care declined from 6.2 percent during 2013 to 4.6 percent during 2020.
    • Across insurers, Pennsylvania allocated 4.1 percent to primary care during 2020.
  • Quotable:  “We cannot underestimate the critical role primary care plays in our health care system, from improving patient outcomes to enhancing access to quality care for everyone,” said Ripley Hollister, MD, a board member of The Physicians Foundation and family medicine physician.

HAP continues to focus on strategies to grow Pennsylvania’s health care workforce. Last month, HAP and its Health Care Talent Task Force released a report with strategies to support Pennsylvania’s workforce pipeline. The report highlights the need to prioritize our health care talent infrastructure, support health care workers, and strengthen the health care community.

The new primary care report card is available to review online.