From 2004 census statistics of the US Labor Department and of the American Medical Association, there are approximately 885,000 (884,974) doctors in the US. This represents about 0.29% of the population or one-third of 1%. There is roughly one doctor to 300 people in the US.
However, not all doctors see all people. Only about 91,000 are general practitioners. This makes up only 0.03% of the total population, or one-thirtieth of 1%. Many medical professionals feel that the number of general practitioners is not adequate to the American population. They argue that the number of general practitioners needs to almost double in order to address the needs of Americans.
Unfortunately, there are many who are now loath to consider becoming doctors because incomes have not kept pace with inflation and education expenses. For example, malpractice insurance is now much higher than it was 20 years ago, given the rising costs of lawsuits. As well, education costs have risen, and mean the average medical student may have incurred over 100,000 US Dollars (USD) of student loan debt prior to beginning work.
Another concern is that compensation for doctors who take Medicare is now significantly lower than what one would charge the average patient. As well, insurance companies play a part by contracting for low medical fees as well. Many physicians feel the way to adequately address this issue and make compensation predictable and uniform is through a universal health program. Others argue that there are too many disadvantages to a government-run health program, and point to the poor administration and lack of compensation from current health programs like Medicare.
These arguments and the falling economic worth of being a physician often seems like too much of a hassle for potential new physicians. Doctors may choose to specialize instead, which tends to provide better compensation, or many students decide against healthcare on the whole.
Broken down by gender, women still make up less than half of all doctors. Even in obstetrics and gynecology, a field where many women prefer a female doctor, there are still more males than females. The only specialty that currently has more females than males is pediatrics, and the numbers are nearly even there, with only 3000 more female pediatricians than male pediatricians.
Races other than Caucasians are significantly underrepresented. Caucasians represent 47.8% of all physicians. Black doctors only make up 2.3%, and Hispanics about 3.2 %. The largest minority percentage is Asians, at 8.3% of all doctors.