The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 5, 2013

Mayo, Mankato Clinic prepared for primary care doc shortage

Affordable Care Act will put strain on primary care

A medical issue that was a mere festering sore for years could turn into a major wound once the Affordable Care Act fully kicks in.

The Affordable Care Act promises to insure millions of people who previously didn't have insurance. This will put a strain on hospitals and clinics, and one area of medicine in particular: primary care.

A shortage of primary care physicians already exists in some parts of the country, and it's expected to get worse. What it means is that, while people may be thrilled to finally have health insurance, they may be forced to wait a long time before they can actually see their doctor.

Nearly one in five Americans already lives in a region designated as having a shortage of primary care physicians, and the number of doctors entering the field isn't expected keep pace with demand.

The Mankato area, meanwhile, isn't quite as bad off as other parts of the country. Both Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato and the Mankato Clinic have taken measures to mitigate the impact of the shortage as much as possible.

"(The shortage) is not news to us," said Dr. Greg Kutcher, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato. "It's been an issue for many, many years, probably decades. We've been proactively working on this for a long time. It doesn't mean we're not affected by it but I think we're in a better shape than a lot of places."

One thing Mayo has done, Kutcher said, is establish a relationship with the University of Minnesota's medical school. Between 1997 and 2013, 71 family medicine residency graduates have worked with MCHS. Of those, 46 are practicing in Minnesota, and 21 have stayed within MCHS.

Kutcher said it's a unique set up in Minnesota. The partnership began in the Waseca hospital but eventually moved to Mankato.

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