Report says Florida needs more physicians in coming years

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(The Center Square) — A report by the Florida Legislature’s research arm says Florida will need more physicians to deal with an aging population despite massive increases in tax dollars going to graduate medical education.

According to a report from the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability released in December, recent studies have estimated that Florida will have the second largest physician shortage by 2030 among all states. This comes despite Florida investing heavily into graduate medical education — using Medicaid funds — which have increased by 1,205% since 2013.

The report states that while there has been an increase in practicing physicians thanks to the state’s investment into graduate medical education, demand is outstripping supply as Florida is one of the fastest-growing states in the U.S. and third largest by population, behind Texas and California.

State funding for graduate medical education has increased from $80 million in fiscal year 2013-14 to $718.4 million by fiscal year 2021-22, increasing the number of positions from 4,686 to 8,065. Researchers stated that physicians would often stay in the state where they completed their training, so increasing the number of available positions could increase the number of physicians in Florida’s workforce.

The report recommended that strategies be implemented to increase physician retention rates. Florida lacks state-level planning that includes clear objectives and policy priorities, hindering the state’s ability to track progress. It was further recommended that lawmakers direct the research agency to conduct periodic assessments of the graduate medical education system to enhance data collection and reliability.

A policy document from the Florida Hospital Association issued in August stated similar findings in its summary, projecting that the physician shortage could be 18,000 by 2035 and recommending that funding be increased for graduate medical education to address this growing issue.

The 2023 Florida Physician Workforce Annual Report states that most physicians are located in the more populous counties and within larger urban areas. Across the state, 35.82% of Florida’s 67 counties have fewer than 10 physicians for every 10,000 people.

According to the report, there are approximately 98.11% of all physicians working in urban counties, while only 1.89% work within Florida’s 31 rural counties. The report further states that 34.17% or 19,396 physicians are 60 or older.

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