Washington, D.C., August 6, 2012—The “Physician Shortage Reduction and Graduate Medical Education Accountability and Transparency Act” introduced by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) is a significant step toward easing the nation’s doctor shortage crisis, according to the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges).
The bill, H.R. 6352, would expand the number of residency training positions supported by Medicare by 15,000 slots. The proposal also would establish transparency and accountability measures to demonstrate the extent that resident training programs address priorities for improving patient care, such as providing training in a variety of settings, using health information technology, and developing interdisciplinary care teams.
“The new residency positions created by this legislation, along with the thoughtful approach to achieving transparency and accountability for graduate medical education, represent the beginning of a comprehensive strategy to make sure Americans have access to the care they need,” said Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., AAMC president and CEO.
According to AAMC estimates, the United States faces a shortage of more than 90,000 physicians by 2020 – a number that will grow to more than 130,000 by 2025. While the nation’s medical schools are on track to increase enrollment by 30 percent by 2016 to meet the needs of a growing and aging population, the overall supply of U.S.-trained physicians cannot increase without more residency training slots. Congress capped the number of residency training positions supported by Medicare 15 years ago this month with the passage of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Recent proposals to reduce the deficit, such as the Simpson-Bowles plan, call for reducing federal funding for GME, which will worsen the physician shortage.
“The significant shortfall in trained doctors and medical professionals will only continue to grow if we don’t begin to address the problem now,” said Rep. 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 and gain the experience needed to become a practicing physician.”
“Our nation’s graduate medical education system trains the world’s best physicians who serve patients in practice settings ranging from renowned teaching hospitals, to community hospitals, to small primary care practices across the country,” Rep. Schwartz said. “This bipartisan effort reflects the pressing need for reforms to our nation’s graduate medical education system that will not only expand training capacity, but also improve the quality of physician training in this country.”
The legislation would result in 4,000 new U.S. doctors each year. While this is only one-third of the estimated number of physicians needed to avert the shortage, medical schools and teaching hospitals also are implementing new, innovative models to improve the efficiency of care delivery, Dr. Kirch said.
Our photograph shows OB-GYN residents in a surgery class and simulation training session at the John A. Burns School of Medicine. Sept. 2011.
The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association representing all 138 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and nearly 90 academic and scientific societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC represents 128,000 faculty members, 75,000 medical students, and 110,000 resident physicians. Additional information about the AAMC and U.S. medical schools and teaching hospitals is available at www.aamc.org/newsroom.