Arizona's doctor shortage could get worse

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- If the Supreme Court allows the Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare" to stand, more than 1 million currently uninsured Arizonans could enter the health-care system. But some fear the system is not ready, largely because of a shortage of doctors.

Right now Arizona ranks 43rd in the nation when it comes to primary-care physician supply according to a 2010 study by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are currently 1.2 million uninsured citizens in Arizona who could get coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

"It's a classic supply-and-demand problem. If more people come online and expect preventative care and so on, I think we will need more primary-care physicians," said John Ford of St. Luke's Health Care Initiatives, an independent non-profit health care foundation.

Ford said the national average is 25 physicians per 10,000 people, but right now Arizona only has 20. He estimates Arizona needs another 2,500 physicians to make up the shortage by 2014.

"Whether the [health care act] stays alive or not, we still have a physician shortage and we still have people who need health care regardless of whether they're covered or not," Ford said.