Joint Statement: Schock, Schwartz Introduce Legislation to Address Physician Shortage
Legislation Ensures U.S. is Prepared to Meet Health Needs with Adequate Physician Workforce
Today, Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) introduced legislation to address the physician shortage facing the United States. The Training Tomorrow’s Doctors Today Act will ensure there will be an adequate physician workforce prepared to meet the health needs of the American population. The Schock-Schwartz legislation creates 15,000 new Graduate Medical Education (GME) slots around the country over five years. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that in 2015, the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than needed and that could number rise to as many as 130,000 by 2025.
“In the U.S. we are facing a significant physician shortage that will only increase in severity unless action is taken soon. Every eight seconds another Baby Boomer turns 65 so it’s incumbent upon us to ensure we have a prepared physician workforce in place to meet the growing health care demands on our country,” said Congressman Aaron 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 to gain the experience needed to become a practicing physician.”
“The United States is on the cusp of a crisis in access to both specialty and primary care physicians. We have an urgent need to take action to ensure Americans have access to quality, well trained doctors,” said Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz. “While there will be more than 74 million American seniors in need of health care services within 20 years, experts estimate that 130,000 new physicians will be necessary to eliminate the workforce shortage by 2025. This bipartisan legislation is critical. “
The Training Tomorrow’s Doctors Today Act ensures there will be a sufficient physician workforce to meet the health needs of the American population. 10,000 Baby Boomers are expected to retire every day for the next 20 years. In order to ensure there will be enough physicians trained to care for the Baby Boomer generation, the Schock-Schwartz legislation increases the number of Graduate Medical Education (GME) slots by 15,000 over the next 5 years.
If enacted into law, this would be the first increase in GME slots in nearly 15 years. The number of federally funded residencies has been frozen since 1997. However, since then the U.S. population has grown by 50 million, every eight seconds another baby boomer turns 65, and according to the Association of American Medical Colleges by 2015 the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than needed and that could number rise to as many as 130,000 by 2025.
GME slots are funded primarily by Medicare for the purpose of training medical school graduates in patient settings. In order for these young doctors to become fully accredited physicians, they must undergo a residency program in a specific specialty that lasts from three to seven years. During this time, the medical residents care for patients under the supervision of physician faculty while also participating in both educational and research programs. After successfully completing their residency program, a doctor is eligible to take his or her board certification exam in order to practice medicine independently.
The Schock-Schwartz bill allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue 3,000 new slots a year over 5 years. Hospitals will be allowed to apply for the slots through one of two pools, but no hospital will be able to earn more than 75 slots. This limit ensures smaller and rural hospitals are able to compete for the slots in the same manner as larger hospitals and hospital systems. The first path a hospital can choose is through a “cap relief pool.” A hospital is awarded new slots on the basis of how long they have trained residents out of their own bottom line (“residents trained over the cap”) as well as how many total residents have been trained over the cap. This criteria rewards hospitals for training new medical doctors despite the current freeze on medical residency slots. 1,000 slots per year will be available through the cap relief pool. The second pool is the “priority pool” which awards GME slots through a priority criteria. The criteria, as outlined in the bill, gives hospitals a second pathway to apply for the slots. There will be 2,000 slots available through this second option. A hospital can choose to apply for slots through one or both pathways but is limited to receiving 75 slots annually.
The Schock-Schwartz legislation also provides accountability to the American taxpayer by requiring teaching hospitals to report the full cost of their medical residency programs. Under current law, it is unclear what the total impact of these programs are. The bill will require hospitals to report the true costs of their program, such as the cost of a medical resident’s laboratory/ research training. Also requires the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) to update a report on specialties in which there is a physician shortage, issue two new reports. The first is to recommend ways to increase diversity in the health care workforce and the second is a review of the competency of doctors who serve seniors as well as recommendations to improve that level of care.