Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Physician Shortage: The Right Solution

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Physician Shortage: The Right Solution

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeff Scott

In response to the recent Times-Union editorial, "Physician shortage coming and no major relief in sight," I would like to offer an important clarification on a recent report that the editorial used.

First, there is a pending physician shortage in primary care, and Florida (like many states) must grapple with this challenge.

That is why the Florida Medical Association has been championing a plan to increase the number of physicians in our state through a five-part program that will have an immediate impact without jeopardizing patient safety.

Second and most important to this rebuttal, the editorial cited a report from Florida TaxWatch that remarkably - and inaccurately - makes the absurd and unsupportable claim that by allowing nurses to basically become primary care physicians, Florida would save $1 billion.

A billion dollars is a lot of money and requires closer examination.

ANALYZING CLAIMS

So let's examine that remarkable claim.

A close look at the TaxWatch report ("Diagnosing the Debate: Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice") shows that this is not at all what the group claims.

In fact, the word "billion" appears nowhere in it.

The number is much lower than that, and the claim is that the savings would be $339 million.

How do they get that figure?

It is important to understand that TaxWatch did not conduct any original research to create it.

It is lifted directly from a 2010 state government memorandum (not a full report) that based the number on the presumption that a nurse would perform every single primary care visit in Florida.

To be clear, this figure assumes there would be no doctors for any visit.

This is an obviously absurd assumption especially when Floridians have repeatedly told pollsters that they overwhelmingly prefer to see a physician over a nurse.

If we are creating unrealistic scenarios - like one where patients only see nurses and no doctors are involved whatsoever - why not go further?

Why not create a scenario where patients never get sick? Kids don't break bones? Contagious diseases don't spread? And people never forget to take their medications? …

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