The 2015 Washington State Legislature asked WSIPP to contract with RAND to examine policy options for increasing the availability of primary care services in Washington.
These policy options include opening the new Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University in 2017; increasing the number of primary care residency positions in the state; expanding educational loan-repayment incentives to encourage primary care physicians to practice in rural Washington; increasing Medicaid payment rates for primary care physicians in rural Washington; and encouraging the adoption of alternative models of primary care, such as medical homes and nurse-managed health centers, that reallocate work from physicians to nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs). RAND Corporation researchers projected the effects that these and other policy options could have on the state's rural primary care workforce through 2025. They project a 7% decrease in the number of rural primary care physicians and a 5% decrease in the number of urban ones. None of the policy options modeled in this report, on its own, will offset this expected decrease by relying on physicians alone. However, combinations of these strategies or partial reallocation of rural primary care services to NPs and PAs via such new practice models as medical homes and nurse-managed health centers are plausible options for preserving the overall availability of primary care services in rural Washington through 2025.
RAND's report is available below and can be accessed by clicking here.