The U.S. Has a Doctor Deficit

The U.S. has a physician deficit that adversely affects healthcare in the country. In the OECD ranking of doctors per 10,000 the US ranks at the bottom. Only Mexico and South Korea are worse than the US. All European countries including the ones in Eastern Europe have higher doctor density. The simple fact that the US ranks just better than Mexico in this regard shows priorities are off-track in this country.

The following chart shows the physicians per 10,000 people by type:

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Source: The U.S. Has Much to Gain from More Doctors, ROBERT ORR, Niskanen Center

According to the above report by Robert Orr, increasing the supply of of doctors would improve health care. From the report:

Increasing the number of physicians would improve American health care

Restricting physician supply appears not only to have failed in terms of controlling costs, but likely also delivered a health care system that’s comparatively worse at ensuring the health of U.S. citizens. This is because more basic medical services are generally recognized to have a far greater impact on population health than specialized ones. And those high-impact, basic medical services are what become scarce as a result of supply restrictions.

The density of physicians has been routinely found to be associated with better health outcomes. The density of primary care physicians is associated with lower mortality. Similarly, the density of specialists has often been found to be associated with reductions in mortality from specific diseases. For example, death rates from melanoma decrease with an increase in the density of dermatologists. Patients seem to like being in places with a greater availability of physicians, too. Density has been found to be positively associated with a variety of patient-reported outcomes, such as physical and mental health status. 

Recently I came across another chart that showed the number of psychologists per capita is also lower in the US than other countries like Argentina, Netherlands and Costa Rica. Sometimes one has to wonder if mass shootings in the country such as the recent ones in Virginia and Colorado could have been avoided if there are enough mental health professionals:

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Source: Latinometrics by Ernesto Canales and Mario Canales, Substack

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