Senator Jon Tester is pushing to train more doctors in rural states like Montana.
Twenty percent of Americans live in rural and frontier areas, but less than nine percent of doctors serve in those areas. Studies show that doctors who train in rural areas are more likely to stay there and practice once they finish their medical education.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is supposed to start an Integrated Rural Training Track program to encourage doctors completing the residency portion of their medical education to spend time in rural communities. But that program has yet to get off the ground.
In a bipartisan letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Tester called on the department to implement the program that would bring more doctors to rural America.
"Practicing medicine in rural Montana is different from practicing in urban areas, and doctors need to know how to provide quality care with much less infrastructure," Tester said. "Encouraging young doctors to learn and practice in rural communities is just another step to ensuring rural Americans get the care they deserve."
Tester is also calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to revise its plan to require residency programs to be half-filled in two years. Tester said the initiative would "effectively kill' new residency programs, because it often takes two years for programs to select a single class of residents.
Tester recently received the 2012 National Rural Health Association's Rural Health Award for his role in championing rural health