First, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 capped the number of residency slots in teaching hospitals which were eligible for Medicare payments. This mistake has facilitated a shortage of primary care physicians across the country. A larger supply of primary care physicians is associated with a lower mortality rate. In fact, adding 10 primary care physicians per 100 000 population increases life expectancy by nearly two months, whereas the same increase in specialty physicians only improves life expectancy by 19 days.
Over the past three decades, medical school tuition has quadrupled. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates the cost to attend a public medical school is more than $240,000 and as much as $322,000 for four years at a private medical school – an amount which is more or less equivalent to the cost of a family home.
Only 6% of physicians practice in rural areas, yet they serve 16% of the population. Kitsap County has 443 physicians, equivalent to 2.4% of the state total and is one county experiencing a shortage of primary care physicians. Kitsap County falls below the state average in every primary care specialty across the board.