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Annual Graduate Medical Education Day Brings Residency Shortages to the Forefront

May 06, 2019

Today in Washington, D.C., hospital advocates participated in the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) Graduate Medical Education (GME) Day of Action to reinforce the importance of Congressional support for residency programs, workforce initiatives, and learning opportunities across the United States, in an effort to meet society’s ever-evolving health care needs.

Hospital advocates highlighted the urgency of physician shortage projections and urged federal lawmakers to take action by passing bipartisan legislation to support GME. Funding for Medicare-supported GME positions has been effectively frozen since 1997 as a result of outdated caps imposed by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. During the past two decades, the population has grown, and the supply of physicians has not kept pace with the demand for physician services.  

During meetings on Capitol Hill, hospital leaders emphasized:

  • The physician shortage continues to remain real and significant, with the latest data projecting a shortfall of between 46,900 and 121,900 physicians by 2032, including significant shortages in both primary care and specialty categories
     
  • The impact of this shortage will disproportionately affect vulnerable and underserved populations in the United States. The nation needs more doctors and a more diverse workforce that is responsive to—and capable of providing optimal care for—an increasingly diverse, aging population

Two pieces of federal legislation would help address the looming physician shortage by augmenting support for physician training:

  • The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019 (S.348 / H.R.1763) would help address the doctor shortage by gradually adding 15,000 additional Medicare-supported residency slots over five years
  • The Opioid Workforce Act of 2019 (H.R. 2439) would provide for 1,000 new residency positions in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, or pain management, and would make available Medicare funding for GME

These federal initiatives would increase the number of residency slots and specifically target resources to support the capacity to provide substance use disorder treatment. They mark important steps in promoting one of HAP’s key strategic priorities: to help attract and retain the health care talent pool needed to provide quality, patient-centered care for Pennsylvania communities.

HAP and the hospital community continue to focus on ways to foster the health care workforce of tomorrow. HAP has urged members of the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation to cosponsor both the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019 (S. 348, H.R. 1763) and the Opioid Workforce Act of 2019 (H.R. 2439). Additionally, through the Health Care Talent Task Force, HAP staff and hospital leaders are guiding the development of strategies that will promote Pennsylvania’s health care workforce.

Additional educational resources can be found at the AAMC’s website. For questions regarding advocacy efforts to increase federal support for physician training and modernizing the health care workforce, please contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s vice president, federal advocacy.

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