It’s no secret that Westchester has an aging population, one that will require increasing medical services, but our population of doctors also is aging.
While we don’t have separate figures for our county (although several in our local healthcare industry have commented that the average age of a physician in Westchester is 55), in New York State, approximately 28 percent of all physicians are over age 60 and close to retirement age, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
An obvious solution is to recruit more young physicians to the county. But Westchester is an expensive place to live, especially when one is a recent medical school graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to pay off. Young professionals also favor a lifestyle where they can work, live, and play without having to travel very far. As for the younger physicians who are practicing here, the cost of malpractice insurance is skyrocketing, with nary a sign of any tort reform on the horizon.
An additional concern is whether available physicians will be willing to see patients who purchase their insurance on a public exchange. Many providers and hospitals stood their ground when health plans on the exchange fiercely negotiated provider rates, and declined to join these health plan networks. It’s similar to what our older population is experiencing once they turn 65. Many of our doctors -- particularly specialists – shun Medicare patients!
There is no silver bullet to solve these problems, but the good news is that the Westchester County Association and the BLUEPRINT for Westchester have begun to address these underlying issues: (1) By rethinking how we deliver health services in the region so we can serve our population, control healthcare costs for employers, and keep our $10 billion healthcare industry economic engine chugging along; and (2) creating engaging, exciting, and affordable communities to attract young professional talent – and that includes physicians. We know what’s ahead. Let’s address these issues now.