Rural WA clinics working to end doctor shortages

By By DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP

SEATTLE (AP) — Hospitals and clinics in central Washington are trying to get out in front of expected doctor shortages when national health care reform takes full effect next year.

Washington officials expect more than 325,000 state residents to become eligible for health insurance after an expected expansion of Medicaid eligibility in the state. Thousands more are expected to buy health insurance through the state's new health insurance exchange, which opens in October.

The expected influx of new patients is expected to put even more pressure on communities that don't have enough doctors.

The American Medical Association says Washington ranks 13th nationally in total active primary care physicians per 100,000, with 5,971 doctors to serve more than 6.7 million people as of 2010. These doctors are not distributed evenly across the state, with rural areas experiencing the most severe shortages.

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