PHYSICIAN WORKFORCE ENHANCEMENT ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - September 23, 2008)
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Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening in support of H.R. 2583, the Physician Workforce Enhancement Act of 2008. This legislation seeks to address shortages in the physician workforce by creating a loan program for rural and urban hospitals to start residency training programs.
Demand for primary care has grown due to an increase in the number of people living with chronic diseases and due to the long-term care needs of an aging population. However, recent trends show that the growth in the physician workforce is not keeping pace with the growth of the general population. In fact, there has been a decline in the number of medical students and training opportunities for primary care in certain areas of practice, including pediatrics, which are expected to have more critical shortages in the future.
H.R. 2583 seeks to address the physician shortage by establishing a loan program for eligible hospitals to establish residency training programs in allopathic and osteopathic medicine with a preference for hospitals located in rural areas.
Residency training programs are an integral way for rural and small urban communities to attract physicians as it encourage doctors to put down roots in the community where they completed their residency.
One important source of funding for residency training programs is Medicare. However, the Medicare program caps the number of residents and fellows eligible for Medicare reimbursement.
This can narrow the number of resources available to some smaller hospitals that have the greater need for residents that will later serve the community as physicians. That cap was implemented at the time when it appeared that the physician workforce would enjoy surpluses for some time, and that the use of managed care services would reduce the demand of medical services. But both trends have significantly reversed in recent years, precipitating the need for a new strategy to improve the health and vitality of the U.S. physician workforce.
H.R. 2583 provides such a strategy. This legislation will make great strides in attracting new physicians to serve in rural and small urban districts that need them most.
I want to urge my colleagues to support the passage of this bill.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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