Feb 5, 2020 - Health

The booming demand for nurse practitioners

A nurse practitioner doing a heath checkup in Denver, Colo. Photo: RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The demand for nurse practitioners has exploded recently.

By the numbers: The number of nurse practitioners more than doubled from 2010 to 2017, far outpacing the number of new doctors or registered nurses, according to a study published this week in Health Affairs.

  • Less than 1% of NPs are unemployed, the study found, and most of them have seen steady wage growth.

Why it matters: These changes are a reflection of broader shifts within the health care system — most notably, the shift from inpatient to outpatient care.

  • RNs are now typically leaving inpatient hospital settings earlier in their careers to get the advanced training to become and NP and move to an outpatient setting, the study says. Although the authors don't expect that to lead to "deep and prolonged" RN shortages, it's still a strain on the inpatient workforce.

What's next: Nurse practitioners are providing a lot more care — the number of Medicare beneficiaries billed by a nurse practitioner has doubled. And that trend will continue.

Go deeper: Health care has been adding jobs for over 5 years

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Americans are visiting primary care doctors less often

Adults in the U.S. are visiting primary care doctors less often, according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which could foreshadow worse health outcomes and higher costs.

By the numbers: The study, which focused on adults enrolled with a large commercial insurer, found that, between 2008 and 2016, visits to primary care physicians declined by 24.2%, and nearly half of adults didn't visit one in any given year by the end of the time frame.

Go deeperArrowFeb 4, 2020 - Health

Medicare Advantage still leaves big out-of-pocket bills

Photo: John Giles - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

Seniors who have supplemental coverage for vision, dental and hearing benefits still pay a lot out of pocket for those services, according to a study published in Health Affairs this week.

By the numbers: Medicare beneficiaries with coverage overall still had out-of-pocket expenses that made up 70% of their dental spending, 62% of vision spending and 79% of hearing spending, per data taken from the 2016 Cost Supplement to the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey.

Go deeperArrowFeb 4, 2020 - Health

40% of Iowa caucusgoers said health care was their top priority

Bernie Sanders at his caucus night party in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Iowa Democrats reported Monday that their biggest priorities were beating President Trump and health care — but the meltdown of their election reporting systems left their presidential choices unresolved.

Why it matters: We've been writing for months that Democrats have a major choice ahead, either picking an advocate of Medicare for All — and siding with the plan that's less popular with the rest of the country — or a public option advocate.