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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
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Projected Shortages in Healthcare

There are basically two factors, which will cause significant shortages in the healthcare field over the next 20 years. First, baby boomers will grow older and it is an undisputed fact that most healthcare resources are needed as we age. Today, in the United States, there are around 40 million people over the age of 65. By 2030, that number will explode to over 71 million. That is a 77 percent increase – an impact, which will measurably affect the delivery of healthcare. Next, adding some 30 million people to healthcare insurance under the recently passed healthcare bill will put a further strain on resources in the field of healthcare.

Now, take a look at the demand on physicians. Projections show that there will be a shortage of around 180 thousand physicians in 2030. There is no doubt that the shortage will impact the entire nation.

Next, examine where we will be with a shortage of nurses and physician assistants. By 2030 we will be short over one million nurses in this country. The statistics about doctors and nurses are real. The concern is that very little is being done to turn the situation around. The healthcare debate had hardly any discussion about increasing the supply of physicians and nurses.

Why is that the case? In my judgment, no one really projected fully enough the current shortage, the aging of baby boomers and the impact on the new healthcare law. One impact of these shortages will be medical tourism. That means people will go to countries like India for operations and other procedures. It is already under way. Just go to, and you will be amazed what is now taking place. And the destinations are all over the world.

One footnote on the shortage of nurses is that several hospitals in Florida obtain 25 percent of their nursing staff from Canada and England.

One other area where shortages are starting to develop is in the supply of drugs. Right now, there are some 40 drugs on a delayed list. The reasons for the lack of supply are two fold. For some drugs, there have been manufacturing delays. In other words, the pharmaceutical manufacturers have failed to get their systems up and running in a timely way. The other reason, and the most significant, relates to the unexpected increase in demand. As a result, the manufacturers have not been able to supply the market demand.

Another area where our aging population will have a significant impact over the next 20 years is the staffing and number of beds available in the field of nursing homes. While the statistics in this area are somewhat vague, it is clear that baby boomers will require the construction of new nursing homes and the staff to operate such facilities.

Remember, in 1900 our life expectancy was around 47 years. Today it is around 80 with 2030 seeing the life expectancy at 88. One other longevity statistic. Fifty percent of all babies born today will live to 100!

There is no doubt that healthcare is a field where the jobs will be plentiful over the next two decades.

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