Report: Dearth of geriatric specialists concerns experts

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A new report warns that the U.S. has enough geriatric specialists to treat only a third of the senior population today, and the number is declining, even as the bulge of baby boomers age. The American Geriatric Society released the report Tuesday.

The number of geriatric specialists--7,600--has declined steadily, since the mid 1990s, when there were 9,200 such certified doctors.

The society blamed low Medicare payments for the decline. Also, young doctors are pursuing other avenues where they can make a better living, the report said.

Even more worrisome, the trend may continue: There aren't enough burgeoning specialists to replace those who are retiring. The 127 geriatric medicine programs at U.S. medical schools produce only 250 to 300 new specialists each year.
 
The aged population is expected to double by 2050. Geriatric experts say that specialized care is needed for about 15% of older, complex patients, who may be taking 12 or more medications for multiple illnesses.