The AAMC May 6 hosted a Graduate Medical Education (GME) Day of Action in conjunction with the GME Advocacy Coalition — a group of hospital, physician, academic, and specialty stakeholder organizations — which it convenes. The Day of Action was designed to raise the profile of Medicare-supported GME, which has been effectively frozen since 1997, and to urge members of Congress to co-sponsor the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act (S. 348/H.R. 1763) [see Washington Highlights Feb. 8, March 15].
The centerpiece of the Day of the Action was a Congressional briefing titled “Medicare’s Role in Addressing the Physician Shortage.” The briefing speakers included: moderator Karen Fisher, JD, AAMC chief public policy officer; Janis Orlowski, MD, AAMC chief health care officer; Christopher Westfall, MD, FACS, dean of the college of medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; and Len Marquez, AAMC senior director of government relations.
Orlowski outlined the findings of the AAMC’s recently released 2019 workforce projections report, which predicts a shortage of between 46,900 and 121,900 physicians by 2032 in both primary and specialty care.
“We have a growing and aging population in this country, and at the same time in the next decade we will have more physicians at the age of retirement. These conditions together will lead to a shortfall that will affect both primary and specialty care, and it will hit all areas of the country from rural to urban settings,” Orlowski said.
Dr. Westfall focused his remarks on the state of Arkansas, which is already is already experiencing the effects of the shortage, stating that “I’ve seen how the shortage is impacting our region firsthand as an ophthalmic surgeon. I have had patients who had to take off work and travel hours and hours to receive care, and many have said they just can’t afford to do that.”
He also discussed how the situation in Arkansas is truly a nationwide problem because of the GME cap. “The cap on GME funding has created a bottleneck and we simply do not have enough residency slots to retain all of the state’s medical school graduates,” said Westfall.
Throughout the day, AAMC staff and GME Advocacy Coalition members met with lawmakers and staff, urging them to end the freeze on Medicare-supported GME positions. Participants also took to social media using the hashtags #GMEDay and #ExpandGME. The day saw participation from physician, hospital, academic, and specialty organizations, including the over 75 organizations who have signed on in support of S.348/H.R.1763 [see Washington Highlights April 12].