On the heels of what is known as "Match Day," where medical students across the country learned where they will go for the next stage of their training, Reps. Joe Crowley (NY-14) and Michael Grimm (NY-11), along with Senators Bill Nelson (FL), Charles Schumer (NY) and Harry Reid (NV) today announced they have reintroduced the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2013 in both chambers of Congress. The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act would expand the current cap on the number of Medicare-supported training slots for doctors, helping to ensure teaching hospitals can meet the growing demands for physicians as our nation faces a looming doctor shortage.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. is expected to face a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians and 46,000 surgeons and medical specialists -- a stunning shortage of more than 91,000 doctors -- by 2020.
"Our country needs us to do all we can to alleviate the coming doctor shortage, yet an outdated limit on the number of doctors that can be trained ties the hands of our medical schools and our teaching hospitals," said Rep. Crowley. "I am proud to partner with Congressman Grimm and Senators Nelson, Schumer, and Reid to once again introduce this critical legislation. Increasing the number of residency slots, along with maintaining sufficient resources for our teaching hospitals, will enable us to continue developing the highly-trained physician workforce we need."
"Our nation is facing a physician shortage, which will only be exacerbated as more baby boomers age into Medicare. While new medical schools are educating more physicians, we still do not have enough resident slots through the Graduate Medical Education (GME) program to train these additional doctors - a problem that greatly impacts New York where 1 in 6 of our nation's doctors are trained. To address this growing issue, I am proud to join Congressman Crowley in introducing the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2013 which will create 15,000 new GME slots over five years. America has the world's best and brightest physicians, and we should expand that tradition for our seniors, children, and for all Americans, who deserve accessible, high-quality healthcare," said Rep. Grimm.
"It's important that we train the workforce for now and for the future," said Nelson.
"With many doctors approaching the end of their careers, our country is facing a shortage in physicians," said Schumer. "In parts of New York, we're already experiencing severe doctor shortages that are putting patient care at risk. Emergency rooms are missing doctors with key expertise for hours at a time, community health centers don't always have the medical staff they need, and our communities end up paying the price. We need to reverse this growing trend that's poised to get worse in the next few years, and we need to do it quickly and that's why Congress should pass this important piece of legislation so that our teaching hospitals can accommodate more residency positions."
"Nevada faces a shortage of physicians which undermines our health care system and leaves patients without access to quality care. Other states across the country face similar challenges. This legislation would increase the training spaces for physicians in our communities, allowing more of them to train in Nevada and other areas. I am pleased to join my colleagues to ensure the next generation of physicians has the best training possible," said Reid.
The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act would increase the number of Medicare-supported hospital residency positions by 15,000 (3,000 slots per year, over five years), bringing the total number of slots available to approximately 102,000. The legislation also places an emphasis on expanding residency slots in primary care and other specialties necessary to meet the needs of a growing population.
Medicare and Medicaid graduate medical education (GME) funding reimburses teaching hospitals for the additional costs incurred as a result of training physicians. Congress has long acknowledged the burdensome costs associated with training our future doctors, and the federal government has supported its share of the costs through GME funding. However, current federal Medicare rules place an outdated cap on the number of residents hospitals across the country are able to train without being penalized millions in Medicare funding. In 1997, federal law froze the number of Medicare-supported hospital residency positions based on the number of residents that each hospital trained in 1996. Fifteen years later, this cap has not been lifted or adjusted, despite dramatic population growth and an impending doctor shortage.
Using state-of-the-art equipment and the most sophisticated medical procedures, teaching hospitals are fulfilling the critical mission of training the next generation of doctors -- success that would be put at risk without strong graduate medical education programs. In New York alone, the state's teaching hospitals train one out of six of the nation's doctors. Across the country, there are seventeen states with more than 10 percent of their active physicians trained by New York institutions.
Teaching hospitals are also engines of economic growth, generating over $512 billion and supporting 3.4 million jobs nationwide. In New York State, these hospitals generate nearly $108 billion for state and local economies annually, and support more than 686,000 high-quality jobs through direct and indirect employment. Failing to maintain strong physician training programs will have a significant impact not only on patient care throughout the country, but also on jobs and economic growth.