Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2021 on March 18.
The legislation would provide 14,000 new Medicare graduate medical education (GME) slots over seven years. In determining which hospitals would receive slots, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would be required to consider the likelihood of a teaching hospital filling positions and would be required to distribute at least 10% of the slots to each of the following categories of hospitals:
- Hospitals in rural areas.
- Hospitals training over their current GME caps.
- Hospitals in states with new medical schools or new branch campuses.
- Hospitals that serve areas designated as health professional shortage areas.
The legislative language builds on the GME provisions included in the Consolidated Appropriations At, 2021 (P.L. 116-260) that provided 1,000 Medicare-supported GME positions — the first such increase in nearly 25 years [see Washington Highlights, Dec. 23, 2020].
Upon introduction of the legislation, the AAMC issued a press release applauding the legislation and stating, “An increase in new GME residency positions is just one part of a multipronged approach to combat our nation’s physician shortage and will be integral to addressing health care equity in the future. An increased emphasis on diversifying the health care workforce is also critical. Additionally, the expansion of health care workforce programs will be an asset in ensuring that we are prepared to respond to the next pandemic, as well as our nation’s other public health threats such as the current substance use and mental health epidemics.”
Sen. Menendez stated that “we were already facing a physician shortage crisis before the pandemic hit. We will not be prepared to respond to a future public health crisis – let alone the health needs of an aging population – if we don’t act now to significantly increase the number of medical school students and physician residents in the training pipeline.”
“We know that adequate access to primary and specialty doctors results in longer lives and better health care outcomes…Our legislation builds on the increased cap we passed last year and represents another meaningful step to ensure Americans in every community are able to seek care from trusted health providers,” said Sen. Boozman.
Majority Leader Schumer mentioned the slots authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, and emphasized that need to build on that progress, stating that “we cannot let up. This legislation, the Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2021, addresses the urgent need for more qualified primary and specialty care physicians …and prioritizes those slots for communities that need them most.”
The House version of the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act is expected to be introduced shortly.