Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he has helped secure an additional 3 Medicare-funded, resident physician slots for Westchester Medical Center (WMC). Federal law limits the number of Medicare-funded resident slots at hospitals across the country, but Westchester became eligible for additional slots following recent hospital closures. The slots will allow Medicare to fund additional physicians to train at Westchester Medical, ensuring that the Hudson Valley has access to highly-qualified physicians in the face of physician shortages throughout the state and country. Schumer announced that the hospital had received 8 additional slots in February of this year, and Schumer since helped push for additional positions to meet local demand. This will allow them to increase residency opportunities and help provide funding at a critical time for our hospitals.
Schumer highlighted that by bringing new residents to WMC, the hospital is strengthened in times of need and emergency. In particular, during and after Superstorm Sandy, doctors, staff, and volunteers worked throughout this emergency to keep patients safe, secure and comfortable. In addition, hospitals in the Hudson Valley, like WMC, are reported to have helped handle overflow of patients from hospitals in New York City and Long Island.
"Ensuring that we have talented and capable physicians at hospitals across the state is essential to providing quality health care," said Schumer. "This is going to be a big boost to Westchester Medical Center's medical education program, its bottom line and its ability to handle emergencies like Superstorm Sandy -- and will help combat the growing doctor shortage problem in New York and across the country. Westchester will soon be home to three more of today's residents and tomorrow's health experts."
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently awarded New York teaching hospitals increases to their Medicare direct graduate medical education (DGME) and indirect medical education (IME) funding, known as "slots", thanks to the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. Thanks to these new slots, Westchester Medical Center will receive an additional $400,000 each year from Medicare to help the hospital continue its high-quality tradition of medical education and training. These slots will help boost the physician population in the Hudson Valley, as many doctors wind up practicing close to the physical location where they complete their residency.
The Affordable Care Act included an important provision that established a process to permanently preserve the Medicare funded residency slots from teaching hospitals that close. Previously, slots from closed hospitals could not be "returned' to the pool. In doing so, the Affordable Care Act directed CMS to create a pool based on the number of Medicare slots associated with the closed teaching hospitals' DGME and IME caps. This pool of DGME and IME slots is to be redistributed, giving priority to hospitals located in the same or contiguous core-based statistical area as the closed hospital, and that met other criteria. As a result, Westchester Medical Center will receive medical education funding and ensure that the Hudson Valley teaching slots are not lost to other states.
There are 134 accredited, allopathic medical schools and approximately 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems in the U.S. that educate and prepare the next generation of physicians. New York State is home to many of the nation's most prestigious academic medical centers and community teaching hospitals, making our state one of the world's premier centers for medical excellence. Westchester Medical Center supplies high quality patient care, vital community services, provides a fertile environment for groundbreaking clinical research and trains the doctors that we will need in the years to come.
Medical schools and teaching hospitals are also major economic engines for their communities and the national economy. A recent study conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges found that accredited medical schools, teaching hospitals and health systems employed over 1,861,549 individuals and generated $512.3 billion in 2008. New York medical schools and teaching hospitals had the largest effect in dollars, with more than $69 billion generated.
Previously, federal Medicare law placed an outdated cap on the number of residents New York hospitals and hospitals across the country are able to train without being penalized millions in Medicare funding. In 1997, the Balanced Budget Act froze the number of residents that a hospital could claim Medicare payment for, based on the number of residents that each hospital employed in 1996 and the cap has not changed since despite dramatic growth in the nation's population. The Affordable Care Act created a process to redistribute slots from closed hospitals, a first step to training more physicians and resulting in Westchester Medical Center securing the additional slots that they received today.