A Medically Underserved Area (MUA, also known as a Medically Underserved Population or MUP) is an area where several factors combine to produce a shortage in access to healthcare services and a decreased life expectancy for the local population. When assessing whether a municipality meets the prerequisites for the Medically Underserved Area designation, four main variables are taken into consideration: percentage of the local residents below the poverty line, ratio of general physicians per 1,000 of local residents, infant mortality rate, and the percentage of the local population over the age of 65. These metrics focus on portions of the population that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of decreased access to healthcare services, the theory being that such metrics will allow for a faster response in the event that medical access is compromised.Recent large-scale administrative attempts to address Medically Underserved Areas include the Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or Obamacare), which was designed to increase access to healthcare services by mandating that employers with more than 50 employees provide health insurance coverage to full-time staff. Proponents of the Affordable Care Act claim that the attempted regulation of corporate health insurance policies will ultimately extend coverage to tens of millions of American citizens, while opponents claim that the ACA will simply prompt companies to shift their workforce in favor of part-time employees so as to avoid the financial penalty tied to refusing the financing of coverage for full-time staff. The Affordable Care Act's lasting effects on Medically Underserved Areas remain unevaluated as of November 2013.
Past solutions to the MUA problem have included specific training and extended deployments in MUAs for new physicians. This practice has decreased in recent years, however, given that in some cases it led medical professionals to commodify the healthcare services they provide. Present and future solutions for correcting the MUA problem include public health education initiatives, which seek to make healthcare delivery information easily accessible for local residents. New funding sources and new training methods for primary care physicians (PCPs) are being developed. Others have called for the establishment of a universal coverage system in the United States, which would extend health insurance coverage to all citizens regardless of income or age. In other modern nations, a universal coverage system is typically funded by revenue collected by various public taxes. While such a system would address the health insurance concerns of Medically Underserved Areas, transportation and distribution issues would still remain unresolved.