WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and John Katko (R-NY) have introduced legislation that would take critical steps towards reducing nationwide physician shortages by boosting the number of Medicare-supported residency positions. The Resident Physician Shortage Act (H.R. 1763) would support an additional 3,000 positions each year for the next five years, for a total of 15,000 residency positions.
“This week, medical students across the country will celebrate their match into physician residency programs, but many of their peers will be left without a residency due to the gap between students applying and the number of funded positions. At the same time, the United States faces a projected shortage of up to 120,000 physicians by 2030. We need to act now to train more qualified doctors,” Sewell said. “Increasing the number of Medicare-supported residency positions means increasing the number of trained doctors to meet growing demand. It also means giving hospitals and health centers the tools they need to increase access, lower wait times for patients and create a pipeline of qualified medical professionals to serve Americans’ health needs.”
To become a practicing doctor in the U.S., medical school graduates must complete a residency program. However, for the past two decades, an artificial cap on the number of residents funded by Medicare – which is the primary source of payment for residents – has limited the expansion of training programs and the number of trainees.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States will face a physician shortage of between 42,600 and 121,300 physicians by 2030. As the American population grows older, the demand for physicians and other medical professionals will increase.
Earlier this year, the Medical Association empaneled the Manpower Shortage Task Force to develop and restore adequate health care manpower in all geographic areas in order to provide quality local health care for all Alabama citizens. Members of the task force have discussed a number of issues including fully funding the Board of Medical Scholarship Awards, scope of practice, physician pipeline programs, education and the possibility of GME expansion, recruitment and retention of physicians through meaningful tax credits and rural community support, and start-up business models.
“Naturally, there are a lot of concerns about health care shortages in rural areas, but our goal with the task force is a long-term solution,” said Medical Association Executive Director Mark Jackson. “The task force and the resolution stand as a reminder that Alabama ranks in the last five of 50 states in health status categories, and while primary care medicine is effective in raising health status, supporting hospitals and improving the economic status of disadvantaged communities, the state’s aging population is causing an escalation in need for primary care physicians. The Association would like to thank Rep. Sewell for introducing the bill and will work closely with her and her staff to help ensure its passage.”
Read the Resident Physician Shortage Act