AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, issued the following statement about passage of the health care package by the House Committee on Ways and Means that included the Opioid Workforce Act of 2019 (H.R. 3414); the Beneficiary Education Tools, Telehealth, and Extenders Reauthorization (BETTER) Act (H.R. 3417); and the Protecting Access to Information for Effective and Necessary Treatment and Services (PATIENTS) Act (H.R. 3439), which would reauthorize the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI):
“The AAMC commends Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and the House Ways and Means Committee for passing legislation that will help the nation have more physicians necessary to address the opioid crisis. We also applaud the Committee for acting to reauthorize PCORI, whose research will aid providers and patients in determining which treatment options work best for them.
In 2016, more than 20 million adults needed substance use disorder treatment but only 11% received it. Closing that gap will require a physician workforce with specialized expertise in treating pain and addiction. The Opioid Workforce Act, passed by the Committee today, would expand access to this care by adding 1,000 Medicare-supported graduate medical education positions over the next five years in hospitals that have, or are in the process of establishing, accredited residency programs in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, or pain management.
We strongly believe that Congress must work together to address the impact of the opioid epidemic across the country, including workforce challenges in both rural and urban communities. Under current law, rural and community hospitals are eligible to begin new residency programs with Medicare support, but support for existing teaching hospitals effectively has been frozen at 1996 levels. This legislation would begin to ease these caps and allow all hospitals that have or are willing to open training programs in these high-need disciplines to meet the demand for care in their communities.
We are also pleased that the Committee took steps to alleviate certain barriers to establishing physician training programs in community hospitals. Currently, community hospitals can inadvertently trigger the establishment of artificially low permanent GME resident “caps” and associated payment levels because they served as a rotation site for small numbers of residents. By passing the BETTER Act, the Committee has taken steps to correct this technical error and make it possible for non-teaching hospitals to establish their own full-time residency programs, thus enabling the nation to train more physicians and make a small dent in the overall shortage of up to nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032.
In addition, by approving a seven-year reauthorization of PCORI, the Committee furthers the ability of both new and current providers to deliver effective, high-quality, patient-centered care. PCORI’s research has and will continue to involve patients as integral partners, working to provide evidence on the relative benefits of various forms of treatment and aiding doctors and patients in determining the best course of action together. This research is already better informing decision-making for patients battling cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer, chronic pain, and other high priorities. To continue this vital work, a long-term reauthorization that ensures funding and structural stability for the institute will be essential, and the AAMC thanks the Committee for taking this key first step in the process.
We look forward to working with Congress to pass these bipartisan bills that will help promote the health and well-being of the nation.”
The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association dedicated to transforming health care through innovative medical education, cutting-edge patient care, and groundbreaking medical research. Its members are all 154 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and more than 80 academic societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC serves the leaders of America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals and their more than 173,000 full-time faculty members, 89,000 medical students, 129,000 resident physicians, and more than 60,000 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the biomedical sciences.