This might be a dumb question, but if doctors are so overworked, why don't we just employ more doctors? I heard that more and more students are applying to med schools but residency spots are being cut, but why is that? If we had more doctors on board, wouldn't that make things easier?
DEFINITELY NOT DUMB. This is the #1 most common question I get asked when I explain physician burnout to people face-to-face. Because I mean, it’s makes sense!
Residency is funded by four primary sources: Medicare, hospitals, med schools affiliated with the residency program, and the state. Unfortunately, by the BBA (Balanced Budget Act) from 1997, Medicare can only fund a very limited number of residency programs. And Medicare is a major source of funding of resident training in every state. In 2013-2014, the proposal to add 15,000 more residency spots by increasing Medicare GME support was turned down given concerns of the amount of spending on the ACA (Affordable Care Act). Which means the state and hospitals themselves must fund residents themselves if Medicare is not funding them. So this is a massive limitation if the state is without funds, if the hospital cannot support more residents, and if the med school does not put that much money into residents (and is put into med student education, which is reasonable and makes sense).
If you want to read a clear, succinct article explaining how residency is subsidized by Medicare, this is a nice article. The same author wrote this article, in which she looks into residency as the bottleneck to solving the doctor shortage in the US.
Therefore, there is not enough money to spend on making more resident spots, the spots that are not being adequately filled or distributed to each state to match each state’s needs and the number of med schools in each state. No residency spots are being cut at this time, per the research I read answering your question. But if you come across anything, let me know!
Hope that answers a bit of your question, and gets you charged up to help out your doctors :)