WASHINGTON––U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation to significantly increase Medicare-supported doctor training slots to help address the growing shortage of primary and specialty care physicians in Arkansas and across the country.
The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act would lift the arbitrary cap on the number of Medicare-funded graduate medical education (GME) positions and gradually raise the number of GME positions by an additional 14,000 over seven years. The legislation prioritizes an increase in positions in hospitals located in states with new medical schools, training over their caps, in rural areas and serving Health Professional Shortage Areas.
“To ensure we are prepared for evolving challenges in medical care and treating patients, we must have a well-trained physician workforce. Arkansans and communities throughout the country depend on access to life-saving and preventative care, which underscores the need for an ample pipeline of medical students. By expanding training opportunities for medical school graduates, we can help address the growing shortage of physicians nationwide and improve access to quality health care close to home,” Boozman said.
“There is a continued urgent need for physicians as we emerge from the pandemic, and we have a duty to ensure all Americans around the country have access to quality health care now and in the future,” said Menendez. “The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted and exacerbated the nation’s shortage of primary and specialty care physicians, particularly in underserved and rural areas. This bill will ensure that the urgent need to bolster physician training is met in order to provide for the diverse and growing healthcare necessities of Americans throughout the country.”
“At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Yorkers joined together every night to cheer for medical workers and thank them for their sacrifice. Three years later, our healthcare system has been severely strained and our country is facing an alarming doctor shortage, especially in rural and underserved communities. It is critical that we provide the support needed to recruit, train and retain doctors in all parts of our healthcare system so all citizens have access to high-quality healthcare,” said Schumer. “Let’s fix this crisis and pass the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act.”
“It is troubling that in the midst of growing demand for treatment services, our country continues to face a shortage of trained physicians,” said Collins. “This bipartisan legislation would further expand access to health care, particularly in rural or underserved communities, which in turn promotes healthier lives.”
Arkansas ranks among the lowest states in active patient care physicians per 100,000 persons. Between one-third and one-half of medical school graduates leave Arkansas for residency training. In recent years, there were nearly half as many available residency positions as medical school graduates in the state, meaning a large share of prospective residents are forced to continue their medical training elsewhere. The effect of this displacement is the loss of future physicians in The Natural State given residents’ tendency to practice close by the communities in which they complete their training.
“The AAMC applauds Senators Bob Menendez, John Boozman, Susan Collins and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for introducing important, bipartisan legislation to help expand the physician workforce and address the estimated physician shortage of up to 124,000 doctors by the year 2034. By making these critical investments in physician training, this legislation serves to strengthen the health care workforce and improve the health of patients, families, and communities nationwide,” said David J. Skorton, MD, President and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
This legislation builds upon Boozman’s efforts to improve health care in Arkansas. Last month, the senator introduced the Physicians for Underserved Areas Act, legislation that would update the GME distribution process to allow medical residency programs in areas with physician shortages a greater chance of gaining available residency slots following a hospital closure elsewhere in the country. Additionally, Boozman is championing the Resident Education Deferred Interest Act to help incentivize students to join the medical field by pausing their student loan interest accrual and principal loan repayment while serving in residencies or internships.
The full text of the legislation can be found here.