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Second Opinion Podcasts

Learn about policy issues important to medical schools and teaching hospitals, with Atul Grover, M.D., Ph.D.

GME Funding: How to Fix the Doctor Shortage

Projected Supply and Demand, Physicians, 2008-2020

With a growing, aging population, the demand for physicians has intensified, and communities the country are already experiencing doctor shortages. According to AAMC estimates, the United States faces a shortage of more than 91,500 physicians by 2020 —a number that is expected to grow to more than 130,600 by 2025. This shortage is equally distributed among primary care and medical specialties such as general surgery, cardiology, and oncology.

To address this shortage, America’s medical schools are increasing their enrollments. However, in order to complete their training and begin seeing patients, new physicians must complete a residency training program, which are in shorter supply.

The Issue

The number of federally funded residency training positions was capped by Congress in 1997 by the Balanced Budget Act. The 26,000 residency positions available for first year trainees will not be enough to provide training for the students graduating from medical school as early as 2016. In addition, Medicare support of graduate medical education (GME) includes paying its share of the costs of training, as well as supporting the higher costs of critical care services, such as emergency rooms and burn units, on which communities rely. Without adequate support, the ability of teaching hospitals to provide essential patient care is threatened.

The Solution

Medical schools are doing their part by expanding enrollment over the last several years. Students have responded with applications and enrollment reaching new highs. Now Congress must do its part by lifting the cap on the number of federally supported residency training positions. Lawmakers have responded with proposals in the House and Senate to increase the number of residency positions. But they must act now in order to ensure that there are enough physicians for our growing and aging population. 

Other Resources

GME: The Basics 
GME and physician workforce projections presentation by AAMC Chief Public Policy Officer Atul Grover, M.D., Ph.D.

GME Champions Urge Increased Support for Funding and Expansion
Watch video highlights from a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing where Sens. Baucus, Nelson, and Schumer asked for continued support of graduate medical education (GME) funding.

GME bottleneck

Graduate Medical Education and the Physician Workforce External Link
A video from the AAMC explains the current challenges of finding enough residency positions for medical school graduates. It presents data that compare the number of medical students applying for training positions with the number of available residency slots.

GME Legislation
Proposed legislation to increase the number of federally funded residency slots.

Proposed Reductions in Medicare IME Payments to AAMC Teaching Hospitals: National and State Economic Impacts 
Proposed cuts to federal support for major teaching hospitals would result in a loss of nearly 73,000 full-time jobs and $654 million in local and state revenue, according to a study commissioned by the AAMC.

Even Small Cuts Have Major Impacts: The National and State Economic Impacts of Proposed Reductions in Medicare IME Payments to AAMC Teaching Hospitals 
Nearly 22,000 jobs and $200 million in state and local tax revenues would be lost if the nation’s largest teaching hospitals faced even a 20 percent cut to indirect medical education (IME) support.

Fix Doctor Shortage Ad

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Quick Facts

  • Shortage of doctors by 2020: 90,000

  • Shortage of primary care physicians: 45,000

  • Shortage of surgeons and specialists: 46,000

  • Physicians likely to retire by 2020: 250,000

  • Americans entering the health care system in 2014: 32 million

  • Time from the start of med school until new doctors enter practice: 7 years

What People Are Saying

Physician Workforce Reports