Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Primary Care Shortage in the Far West

September 2020 reports from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) tell us that over 81 million Americans lived in a primary care shortage area. Known by the HRSA as a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), a HPSA with a primary care shortage is a geographic area, population group, or facility where access to basic healthcare services is substandard because of a lack of primary care providers. This HRSA designation is based upon the number of people living within the HPSA relative to the number of primary care providers that service the area. For its purposes, the HRSA considers "primary care" providers to include MDs and DOs (Doctors of Osteopathy) who provide services as general or family practitioners, general internal medicine physicians, pediatricians, obstetricians or gynecologists. Although the population-to-provider ratio needed to qualify for primary care shortage area designation varies by HPSA type (geographic, population or facility), all HPSAs with a primary care shortage designation have a population-to-provider ratio that meets or exceeds certain thresholds set by the federal government. HPSA's receiving a primary care shortage area designation are eligible to participate in federal programs aimed at attracting more primary care service providers to their communities. As of September 2020, the HRSA estimates that all primary care shortage areas in the U.S. would need nearly 15,000 more primary care providers to eliminate all such shortage designations.

HPSAs in the six-state Far West region account for about 16.2% of the U.S. population who live in primary care shortage areas and just under 17.8% of the national shortage of primary care providers. To eliminate these shortages, the HRSA estimates that Far West region shortage areas would need 2,654 additional primary care providers. Here is a summary look at the primary care shortage in the Far West region of the United States:

The Primary Care Shortage in the Far West
The Primary Care Shortage in the Far West

State (1) HPSAs (2) Population (3) Shortage
AK 301 231.8 59
CA 626 7,996.8 1,545
HI 31 507.3 80
NV 72 950.4 171
OR 144 911.4 143
WA 200 2,643.1 656
Region 1,374 13,240.8 2,654
U.S. 7,203 81,516.3 14,945

(1) Designated Geographic, Population Group and Facility HPSAs with a primary care shortage
(2) Population of designated HPSAs, in thousands
(3) Primary Care practitioners needed to remove HPSA Designation

Source:  Designated HPSA Quarterly Summary, 9/30/20 (HRSA)