Most of the funding for programs under title VII of the Public Health Service Act goes toward primary care medicine and dentistry training and increasing medical student diversity. Despite a longstanding objective of title VII to increase the total supply of primary care professionals, health care marketplace signals suggest an undervaluing of primary care medicine, creating a concern about the future supply of primary care professionals–physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and dentists. This concern comes at a time when there is growing recognition that greater use of primary care services and less reliance on specialty services can lead to better health outcomes at lower cost.
GAO was asked to focus on (1) recent supply trends for primary care professionals, including information on training and demographic characteristics; (2) projections of future supply for primary care professionals, including the factors underlying these projections; and (3) the influence of the health care system’s financing mechanisms on the valuation of primary care services.
GAO obtained data from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and organizations representing primary care professionals. GAO also reviewed relevant literature and position statements of these organizations.