The United States is facing a serious shortage of physicians, between 37,800 and 124,000 by 2034. This is largely due to a growing and aging population and the impending retirements of older physicians. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the vital role that physicians and all health care providers play in our nation’s health care infrastructure and has spotlighted the need for a larger physician workforce. Because it takes up to 10 years to train a doctor, looming shortages must be addressed now before they become inevitable.
Now more than ever, the nation must make a long-term investment in our health care and public health infrastructure. Congress must act quickly to address the physician shortage crisis. Until December 2020, Medicare’s support for training residents remained effectively frozen since 1997, due to caps on the number of medical residents that will be supported. While Medicare support is critical, the program covers only about 20% of the total costs of the training, with teaching hospitals, state funding, and other sources offsetting the rest.