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Economy
Since at least 2007, Idaho has ranked near the bottom when it comes to the number of doctors working in the state.The latest available data from the Association of American Medical Colleges ranks Idaho 49th among states.The Gem State had 184 doctors for every 100,000 people in 2010.There are many factors that contribute to Idaho’s physician shortage; there is limited access to medical education in Idaho, salaries tend to be lower, and it’s tougher to recruit in rural areas.In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has designated 39 of Idaho’s 44 counties as Health Professional Shortage Areas.In an effort to encourage more doctors to practice in Idaho, the state subsidizes the cost of medical school for 28 students in Washington and Utah per year. It also has two incentive programs; the Rural Healthcare Access Program and the Rural Physician Incentive Program.The Rural Healthcare Access Program is a way for Idaho communities to recruit doctors by offering signing bonuses or student loan repayments, as well as developing tele-health projects and improving access to care.The Rural Physician Incentive Program is a loan repayment program for doctors who chose to practice in a rural part of the state. It’s open to doctors from all schools, though preference is given to WWAMI and University of Utah graduates. Doctors are eligible to apply for up to $50,000 of loan repayment.

As Idaho’s Doctor Workforce Ages, Who Is Stepping Up To Replace Them?

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Emilie Ritter Saunders
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StateImpact Idaho

Many states don’t have enough doctors.  As we’ve been reporting, Idaho has fewer physicians per capita than every state in the nation except Mississippi.

And the shortage of doctors will likely get worse before it gets better, as physicians from the baby boom generation get ready to retire.  At least one-third of all doctors in each of the 50 states are 55 or older.  In Idaho, nearly 42 percent of physicians are over the age of 55. 

University of Washington researcher Susan Skillman says the aging workforce means retirement will soon take its toll.  “We have great concern about whether the number of providers we have now can be replaced,” Skillman says, “let alone meet this growing demand” for health care services.

It isn’t just that older doctors will be retiring. There’s also a generational shift in mentality going on.  Click here to continue reading and to explore the data...