A new report confirms a long-held belief:  that rural areas of the state are experiencing a shortage of primary care physicians.

President and CEO of the Missouri Hospital Association Herb Kuhn says 80 percent of Missouri is in what he calls a “health professional shortage area.” In rural areas, there is one primary care physician for every 1,776 Missourians. Metropolitan areas fare somewhat better, at 1 to every 962 citizens.

Kuhn says the MHA report goes beyond the numbers, though, and looks at other issues like the fact that rural doctors are aging.  Over half are nearing retirement in the next 5 years.

With federal health care reform kicking in in 2014, Kuhn says more Missourians will be heading to the doctors office. Many of those will seek treatment for chronic conditions.

Research is being done now into ways to incent more doctors to practice in rural areas, but that is no easy task. Kuhn notes urban doctors make about 5 percent more money, while outstate counterparts work longer hours and see more patients and Medicaid patients.