MS worst in the nation for doctor shortage - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

MS worst in the nation for doctor shortage

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

For anyone who's had trouble finding a doctor is Mississippi, there may be a reason. That's because the state comes in at 159 doctors per 100,000 people. That's the lowest in the nation.

One factor is because of the number of patients without health insurance. In Mississippi, that's just more than 18 percent. The national average is 15.5 percent.

Since doctors get paid more by treating patients with insurance, many look to states with a lower than average number.

For cardiologist Clay Hays with the state medical association, none of it is surprising.

"Trying to get people to go to places they want to practice requires money and if folks can't stay in business then they're not going to go there," said Hays.

That shortage, according to 24/7 Wall St., has it's consequences. The organization examined the ten worst and best states, concluding those with higher doctor-patient ratios tend to be healthier states with less smokers and lower rates of obesity.

With the state's life expectancy at almost 75 years, also the lowest in the nation, the rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease are even more troubling.

"People that are obese are at a higher risk for developing heart attacks, congestive heart failure, strokes, sleep apnea, diabetes, a whole host of things. It's a real problem," said Hays.

Hays says efforts are underway to help change those rankings.

 "We're trying to correct that with increased medical school class size. We're trying to encourage people to go into medicine with scholarships and that sort of thing," said Hays.

Recent legislation, pushed by Governor Phil Bryant and known as the Healthcare Zone Act, is one piece of the puzzle which state leaders hope will energize the healthcare sector. It passed the legislature and now allows medical zones to be established throughout the state and provides tax incentives.

There's also a push to get more doctors in rural areas, especially in the Delta. That's been a constant challenge for the medical community.

"Thirty six percent of the physicians in Mississippi live in an urban environment, but that's not where the patients are. There are 1.5 million patients that live out in the rural environment and we need to get them out there," said Hays. "That's important."

Copyright 2012 WLBT. All rights reserved.

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