10 states with most unmet need for primary care physicians

The number of areas federally designated as a primary care shortage area has increased since 2021, with Delaware reporting the highest unmet need for primary care physicians, according to a ranking Kaiser Family Foundation released this month.

The ranking is based on a quarterly summary of designated Health Professional Shortage Area statistics published Sept. 30 by HHS, the Bureau of Health Workforce and the Health Resources and Services Administration. The HPSA designation is given to areas where the population-to-provider ratio for primary care is at least 3,500 to 1.

In total, there are 8,160 areas with an HPSA designation in the U.S., covering a population of 97.6 million people. This tally is up from 7,447 areas with an HPSA designation in November 2021, covering a population of 83.7 million people. At present, the U.S. would need 16,940 more practitioners to remove HPSA designations from these shortage areas. 

Below are 10 states with the most unmet need for primary care physicians, based on KFF's ranking. This metric is calculated by dividing the number of physicians available to serve a state's population by the number of physicians that would be necessary to remove the HPSA designation.

  1. Delaware — 16.4 percent of needed primary care physicians are available
  2. Missouri — 20.2
  3. Alaska — 21.8
  4. Nebraska — 25.7
  5. New Jersey — 26.9
  6. Washington — 29.6
  7. North Dakota — 32.1
  8. Florida — 33.3
  9. New York — 37.1
  10. South Dakota— 37.9

View the full ranking here.

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