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Schock Introduces Legislation to Address Physician Shortage


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Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) has introduced bipartisan legislation to address the physician shortage facing the United States. The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction and Graduate Medical Education Accountability Act, H.R. 6352, will create 15,000 new Graduate Medical Education (GME) slots around the country. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that in 2015, the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than needed.

"The US is already facing the reality of having a significant shortfall in trained doctors and medical professionals, and this shortage will only continue to grow if we don't begin to address the problem now. Its estimated by 2015, the country will have over 62,000 fewer doctors than needed," said Congressman Aaron Schock. "The primary way our country can address the physician shortage is by ensuring we increase the number of Graduate Medical Education slots. By doing so, we are increasing the number of medical school graduates who will receive hands on training in a patient setting to gain the experience needed to become a practicing physician."

"I commend Congressman Schock for his leadership in addressing the physician shortage crisis," said Paul Macek, President and CEO of Proctor Healthcare. "All the trends show the US is heading down a dangerous path with fewer doctors practicing medicine, which has already begun to leave the US without the thousands of doctors that are needed to meet the demands of our growing population. H.R. 6352 is the type of solution that will help ensure students pursuing the field of medicine will gain the expertise they need once they graduate while encouraging more students to practice medicine."

"St. John's Hospital in Springfield, Illinois applauds Congressman Aaron Schock's leadership in introducing the 'Resident Physician Shortage Reduction and Graduate Medical Education Accountability Act,'" said Robert Ritz, President and CEO of St. John's Hospital. "This important legislation will add 15,000 much needed Medicare-sponsored residency positions over a five-year period and is an essential step in ensuring access to care for Medicare beneficiaries and others who need health care. We are particularly pleased that the legislation recognizes and addresses the chronic underfunding of residency training at community-based hospitals like St. John's."

"Midwestern University supports the expansion of graduate medical education in hospitals across the country to address physician shortages," notes Kathleen H. Goeppinger, PhD, President & CEO of Midwestern University. "We applaud the efforts of Rep. Aaron Schock in proposing this legislation to address this critical need."

"OSF Healthcare System supports the education of new physicians and has for many decades. The education that occurs at hospitals is invaluable to the training that physicians needs," said Tara Canty, COO, Accountable Care, OSF Healthcare System. "Medical students and resident physicians under the direct supervision of board certified physicians are able to actually experience what patients and their loved ones need in various clinical situations. The hospital setting rounds out the classroom and simulation preparation that is so critical to successful physician education. There is a cost associated with this training which really is an investment in our future and our country's future. It is encouraging to see Congress take up a bill in support of continued funding and expansion of funding for physician hospital training."
Background Information

Resident Physician Shortage Reduction and Graduate Medical Education Accountability Act, H.R. 6352, ensures there will be a sufficient physician workforce to meet the health needs of the American population. 10,000 Baby Boomers are expected to retire every day for the next 20 years. In order to ensure there will be enough physicians trained to care for the Baby Boomer generation, H.R. 6352 increases the number of Graduate Medical Education (GME) slots by 15,000 over the next 5 years.

If enacted into law, this would be the first increase in GME slots in nearly 15 years. GME slots are funded primarily by Medicare for the purpose of training medical school graduates in patient settings. In order for these young doctors to become fully accredited physicians, they must undergo a residency program in a specific specialty that lasts from three to seven years. During this time, the medical residents care for patients under the supervision of physician faculty while also participating in both educational and research programs. After successfully completing their residency program, a doctor is eligible to take his or her board certification exam in order to practice medicine independently.
Schock's bill allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue 3,000 new slots a year over 5 years. Hospitals will be allowed to apply for the slots through one of two pools, but no hospital will be able to earn more than 75 slots. This limit ensures smaller and rural hospitals are able to compete for the slots in the same manner as larger hospitals and hospital systems. The first path a hospital can choose is through a "cap relief pool." A hospital is awarded new slots on the basis of how long they have trained residents out of their own bottom line ("residents trained over the cap") as well as how many total residents have been trained over the cap. This criteria rewards hospitals for training new medical doctors despite the current freeze on medical residency slots. 1,000 slots per year will be available through the cap relief pool. The second pool is the "priority pool" which awards GME slots through a priority criteria. The criteria, as outlined in the bill, gives hospitals a second pathway to apply for the slots. There will be 2,000 slots available through this second option. A hospital can choose to apply for slots through one or both pathways but is limited to receiving 75 slots annually.

H.R. 6352 also provides accountability to the American taxpayer by requiring teaching hospitals to report the full cost of their medical residency programs. Under current law, it is unclear what the total impact of these programs are. H.R. 6352 will require hospitals to report the true costs of their program, such as the cost of a medical resident's laboratory/ research training. Schock's bill also requires the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) to update a report on specialties in which there is a physician shortage and issue a new report on ways to increase diversity in the health care workforce.

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