Michigan Family Physicians Urge More State Investment to End Growing Primary Care Physician Shortage

PCP shortage will impact health, increase healthcare costs, reduce access to care

Mar. 21, 2022 - More state investment is needed to end Michigan’s growing physician shortage to ensure all residents have access to affordable, comprehensive primary healthcare where they live, the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) announced today.

“Studies show that people who see their primary care physician for care tend to live longer and are healthier,” said Srikar Reddy, MD, FAAFP, MAFP President and family physician with Ascension Medical Group in South Lyon. “We need help addressing the growing shortage of family physicians to protect the health of Michiganders, prevent significant increases in healthcare costs, and ensure patients can access care from their local physicians.”

During Family Medicine Week in Michigan (March 20-26), family physicians, family physicians-in-training, and medical educators gather to highlight the need to address the growing primary care physician (PCP) shortage before it escalates. Currently in Michigan, only 33% of the healthcare workforce is comprised of primary care physicians, including family doctors, short of what is recommended for the best health outcomes.

“Michigan already has less primary care physicians in the workforce than recommended and it’s only going to get worse,” said Jennifer R. Aloff, MD, FAAFP of Midland Family Physicians, PC. “If we don’t address this shortage now, health outcomes across the state are going to worsen and we’re bound to end up with a true primary care crisis.”  

The group also hopes to make access to care more equitable across the state, by increasing the number of physicians in underserved areas of the state. Currently, there are 269 health professional shortages areas in Michigan, where there aren’t any or are too few primary care physicians, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. On top of that, it is estimated there will be a shortage of 860 primary care physicians in our state by 2030. That means Michigan will need a 12% increase in its current primary care workforce to maintain today’s rates of primary care utilization.

“More state investment in primary care would help us get more new physicians into the field and focus on increasing healthcare access in the underserved areas of Michigan,” said Michael C. Bishop, MD, FAAFP, program director of the family medicine residency program at Mercy Health Grand Rapids. “Investing in programs that address the shortage will benefit future primary care physicians, communities where local care is currently scarce, and patients all across the state.”   

The PCP shortage has been caused by many factors, including overall population growth, a growing aging population, and the large number of physicians in the workforce nearing retirement. It is estimated that two out of every five active physicians will be 65 or older within the next 10 years. Additionally, some physicians are opting to leave patient care far before retirement age due to burnout, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

An increase in state funding would go a long way to address this growing problem. MAFP today called on state leaders to invest an additional $31.4 million in two key areas:

Expand the MIDOCS resident physician program: MIDOCS is a state-funded program set up to expand graduate medical education residency positions in primary care specialties while recruiting and retaining physicians in underserved areas of Michigan. The program currently has 52 resident physicians training under medical schools at Central Michigan University, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and Western Michigan University. More state funding could expand the number of resident physicians being trained to help recruit and retain physicians and boost access to care.

Expand the Michigan State Loan Repayment Program: This program assists employers in recruiting and retaining primary care physicians, and helps reduce their medical education debt, in exchange for practicing in an area of the state facing a health professional shortage. Expansion of this program would benefit physicians, patients and communities around the state. Currently only 40% of program applicants receive awards, showing there is demand for the program’s expansion. MAFP applauds Governor Whitmer’s inclusion of this item in her Fiscal Year 2023 budget recommendations, which not only calls for continued funding for the program but would expand it to behavioral healthcare professionals.

“The expansion of both the MIDOCS and Michigan State Loan Repayment Program would go a long way in helping address the growing primary care physician shortage we are facing,” said David Lick, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAFP, program director, vice chair of education and professor within the department of family medicine at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. “As we celebrate Family Medicine Week, we are asking our state leaders to invest in the medical specialty that everyone needs throughout their life, that has been shown to keep people healthy and effectively manage chronic conditions and helps prevent more costly care.”