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  • Washington Highlights

    AAMC President and CEO Testifies on Physician Shortages

    AAMC president and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, testified on May 20 before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security regarding ways to address the country’s physician shortages.

    During the hearing, “A Dire Shortage and Getting Worse: Solving the Crisis in the Health Care Workforce,” he discussed the importance of Medicare and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) graduate medical education programs, the HRSA Title VII and Title VIII workforce programs, and the National Health Service Corps.

    In his opening statement, Skorton noted, “Addressing the nation’s physician workforce shortages and related challenges will require a multipronged private-public approach, including innovations such as team-based care and better use of technology in addition to increasing the overall number of physicians.”

    “Our annual workforce report continues to project that demand for physicians will outstrip supply, leading to a projected total physician shortage between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033, including both primary care and non-primary care specialties. … The fact is we have a current and projected shortage of physicians that is ominous and requires our best efforts and your support,” he added.

    Subcommittee Chair Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) opened the hearing by noting that “the federal government, as we all know, plays an enormously important role in how many physicians we have. … Last year, Congress added 1,000 additional slots … but it is nowhere near enough, I think, to address the crisis that we face. … In addition to expanding those slots, Congress did expand the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program.”

    Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-Maine) highlighted, “The bipartisan work that the Senate HELP Committee has done to train our health workforce has made a difference. Both the Title VII health professions training and Title VIII nursing workforce programs were reauthorized in the CARES Act last year and we need to make sure they are sufficiently funded.”

    The AAMC-led Health Professions and Nursing Education Coalition continues to urge Congress to provide $1.51 billion for the HRSA Title VII and Title VIII programs in fiscal year 2022, and it submitted testimony on May 19 to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies highlighting this request.

    Additionally, Sen. Collins and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) highlighted their sponsorship of the Opioid Workforce Act (S. 1438) and the need to train providers in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, and pain medicine [refer to Washington Highlights, April 30].

    Other witnesses testifying included:

    • Leon McDougle, MD, MPH, president of the National Medical Association.
    • Shelly Spires, CEO of Albany Area Primary Health Care.
    • James Herbert, PhD, president of the University of New England.