March 17, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Medical School Physician Workforce
On Friday, March 18, the results of the National Resident Matching Program will be announced, informing thousands of California medical students where they have been approved to extend their medical training as part of a residency program. Even so, hundreds of qualified candidates will not be accepted due to a lack of funding for graduate medical training in the state, highlighting a need to pass Senate Bill 22.
The event, known as “Match Day,” takes place after medical students — typically in their final year — have applied for the residency programs of their choice. Eventually, both the students and programs rank their preferences, and the results are announced on the third Friday in March.
“Each year, California is fortunate to have thousands of ambitious medical students apply for residencies across the state, eager to improve the health of their communities,” said Steven E. Larson, M.D., president of the California Medical Association. “Many of these physicians-in-training will one day be the backbone of health care in our state. But sadly, some will be forced to head elsewhere, since current funding levels are not high enough to ensure enough residency spots in California. The data tells us that if a medical student is forced to leave the state to complete his or her training, it is more likely they will stay and practice out of state, despite our desperate need for more physicians, particularly in primary care.”
California has lost tens of millions of dollars in funding for primary care physician training. In 2016 alone, more than $40 million of funding for the training of California’s primary care physicians is expiring.
To help combat a physician shortage in the state and protect patients’ access to care, the State Legislature is currently considering Senate Bill 22, which would direct state funds to new and existing graduate medical education primary care physician residency positions and support training faculty.
“Solving California’s dire physician shortage is critical to the health care for all Californians,” said Senator Richard Roth, author of SB 22. “I introduced Senate Bill 22 to fund additional medical residency positions throughout our state’s medically underserved areas, especially in Inland Southern California and the Central Valley. Studies have shown that if we train tomorrow’s doctors in the areas that need them most, they are more likely to continue serving those areas, helping alleviate critical physician shortages and ensuring equal access to health care.”
States with a higher proportion of primary care physicians have better health outcomes, including decreased mortality from cancer, heart disease and stroke, according to a John Hopkins study. By passing SB 22, California will realize an immediate return on investment as each primary care resident provides an average of 600 additional patient visits per physician per year during training alone.
SB 22 has passed the Senate and is expected to be taken up by the Assembly Health Committee in June.