NY Doctors: Staying Or Leaving?

Aug 22, 2014

A new paper issued by the New York Public Interest Research Group says the number of doctors in the state has increased. The findings counter recent research showing the opposite.

The report, titled “The Doctor Is In: New York’s Increasing Number of Doctors,” purports to "debunk the myth" that New York is seeing a loss in the number of its doctors.


Blair Horner is legislative director for NYPIRG.  "There have been allegations in New York that doctors are leaving the state and going to other states, to some extent because of higher than the national average malpractice premiums, and that picqued  our interest. We were wondering if it was true. So we looked at the national data, looked at the period 2004 to 2012 and we found that New York state now ranks second in the country in the per capita number of doctors. There are more doctors practicing in New York state than there ever have been, and that the rate of increase of doctors practicing in New York far exceeds the increase in the state's population."

The report, based on federal, state and private sector data, found about a 10 percent rise in the number of active doctors statewide from 2004 to 2012.  Not everyone agrees.  Mo Auster, vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs for the Medical Society of the State of New York, says the NYPIRG report is flawed because "New York numbers tend to get a little skewed."   "Maybe over 20 percent of the physicians who have New York licenses are not in active practice here, so I think it's very very important that it’s understood that you can't just simply look at a whole number of physicians and say 'Aw, well there's no physician shortage.' We are experiencing some significant challenges here in many areas of the state. Yes, there are some areas that are probably over-represented, and yes, there is probably some element of a maldistribution problem, but, we are experiencing significant physician shortages in many areas. Physicians are aging, physicians are finding it difficult to remain in practice. And to simply say 'Hey, there's no doctor shortage here in the state of New York' does a significant disservice to these communities."

Auster says reasons physicians flee New York include difficulties getting paid by insurance companies and low Medicaid pay rates.

Suzanne Mattei is executive director for New Yorkers For Patient & Family Empowerment concedes the state does have a problem shared with the rest of the country: its rural areas have more difficulty attracting doctors.   "Getting them to come and live there, and practice. What we'd like to see is more emphasis on targeted programs to attract the doctors into those lower income areas."

NYPIRG has found malpractice insurance premium rates are not linked to doctor shortages. NYPIRG’s Horner says doctors' lifestyle factors in on a decision where to practice:  as rural areas tend to offer less in the way of social and cultural activities.