CRC Report Examines Primary Care Physician Shortages across Michigan

June 10, 2015. Primary care physician shortages in some parts of the state are severe and may be compromising access to quality, affordable health care. Renewed by implementation of the Affordable Care Act and by the state’s expansion of Medicaid, concerns about primary care shortages are unabated. In a new report, Where are the Primary Care Doctors?, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan examines the primary care physician shortage data, looks at the causes for these shortages, and provides some options for policymakers to both increase the supply of primary care physicians and alleviate some of the service demand placed on these providers.

The report reveals that physician shortages in at least one primary care field exist in three out of every four Michigan counties. While the lower half of the Lower Peninsula has a lower incidence of shortages, they were not immune to them. Cass County, for example, had physician-to-population ratios below the suggested range for every primary care field CRC examined. Other hard hit counties include: Alcona, Antrim, Gladwin, Kalkaska, Keweenaw, Lake, Oscoda, Presque Isle, Roscommon, and Schoolcraft. Most of these counties are in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula.

While population growth, an aging baby boomer population, and physician retirement are contributing to shortages across the country, state-level policy as well as training practices and the professional and cultural environment of medicine are significant factors as well. “While Michigan has a high number of medical students and residents in the state, these physicians are not staying in-state to practice as commonly as they do in other states,” says Nicole Bradshaw, Research Associate with CRC. “Shortages in Michigan’s rural communities, combined with lower primary care physician salaries compared to subspecialists and the desire for new graduates to work in desirable areas are policy challenges to addressing this problem in Michigan.“

Major topics covered in the new CRC report include:

  • An overview of the consequences related to insufficient primary care providers.
  • An examination of the primary care health professional shortage areas by Michigan county.
  • County-level analysis of physician supply in general and family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, general surgery, and psychiatry.
  • Highlights of factors causing primary care physician shortages.
  • State-level policy options for increasing the supply of primary care physicians, reducing their demand, and ensuring they are placed in high need areas.

Primary care is integral to ensuring the health of Michigan’s residents. “This report provides data that can help inform new and existing policy to address primary care providers in Michigan,” said Bradshaw. “Going forward, the most effective policies are those that strategically address shortages in a data-driven manner.”

The full report is available at no cost on the Citizens Research Council’s website,

Founded in 1916, CRC works to improve government in Michigan. The organization provides factual, unbiased, independent information concerning significant issues of state and local government organization, policy, and finance. By delivery of this information to policymakers and citizens, CRC aims to ensure sound and rational public policy formation in Michigan. For more information, visit


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