Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) Feb. 6 reintroduced the “Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019,” legislation aimed at addressing the looming physician shortage by increasing the number of Medicare-supported graduate medical education (GME) positions.
In a Feb. 6 statement, AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, commended the members, stating, “The United States is facing a critical shortage of more than 121,000 primary care and specialty physicians by 2030, putting our country’s health security at risk. The AAMC greatly appreciates Senators Menendez, Boozman, and Schumer’s ongoing commitment to address the physician shortage and applauds their introduction of the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019.”
The legislation would increase the number of Medicare-supported GME training positions by 3,000 per year over 2021-2025, totaling 15,000. The legislation sets forth a distribution methodology for the allocation of the additional slots. In determining which hospitals will receive slots, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is required to consider the likelihood of a teaching hospital filling the positions and will allocate the slots in the following manner:
- Hospitals in states with new medical schools or new branch campuses;
Hospitals training over their cap;
Hospitals affiliated with Veterans Affairs medical centers;
Hospitals that emphasize training in community-based settings or in hospital outpatient departments;
Hospitals that are not located in a rural area and operate an approved “rural track” program; and
All other hospitals.
Hospitals receiving additional slots must ensure that at least 50% of the additional slots are used for a shortage specialty residency program, that the total number of slots is not reduced prior to the increase, and that the ratio of residents in a shortage specialty program is not decreased prior to the increase. A hospital may not receive more than 75 slots in any fiscal year.
Sen. Menendez highlighted the importance of addressing an aging workforce and population, stating that, “With an older physician workforce, and an aging population overall, the demand for qualified doctors in New Jersey is quickly outpacing supply. We simply have far too few medical school students and physician residents in the training pipeline in order to catch up. If we’re going to meet the future needs of our residents and ensure access to quality health care, we must close the gap by lifting the arbitrary cap — quickly.”
A House companion bill is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.