March 20, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Workforce Professional Development & Education
Sacramento – Friday, March 20, 2015, is national “Match Day.” Hundreds of California medical students will learn whether they can begin their medical practice in state, or if they will be forced to leave California to complete their training to become fully licensed physicians.
Medical students select a residency program based on the medical specialty they plan to pursue as well as the specifics of a program, which may include particular aspects of training or geography.
“Match Day is a pivotal point in a medical student’s career,” said California Medical Association (CMA) President Luther Cobb, M.D. “Many students graduating from California medical schools want to continue their education and training by attending residency programs here. Unfortunately, because of funding restraints, there aren’t enough openings to accept them all.”
The federal government, through the Medicare program, has been the major funding source for residency programs. Regrettably, this funding has been frozen since 1997, despite California’s population growing over 10 percent in the same time. In addition, many residency program leaders say that funding received from Medicare and Medicaid does not fully cover the cost of even the current residency training slots, so sponsoring institutions such as teaching hospitals must absorb residual costs.
Senate Joint Resolution 7 calls on Congress and the President to lift the freeze on residency positions funded by Medicare, thereby creating a funding stream that will allow for the creation of more residency positions in California.
“The long-time federal freeze on funding new residency positions funded by Medicare has limited California’s ability to train primary care physicians in our own state to meet our needs. As California’s successful implementation of the ACA has sharply reduced the number of uninsured, it is imperative that Congress and the President lift the freeze so all patients can receive high-quality primary care from highly trained physicians,” said Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and State Senator representing Sacramento.
Just last year, over 400 medical school graduates went “unmatched,” meaning they were unable to find a residency program to complete their training.
"We greatly appreciate this resolution calling for improved funding for primary care Graduate Medical Education," said California Academy of Family Physicians President Del Morris, MD. "Our state’s family medicine leaders look forward to working with legislators on a wide range of strategies to address the primary care physician shortage and ensure that Californians will have access to the health care they need.”
“Each year, we send hundreds of students out of state, or worse – leave them unmatched – because of the lack of available residency positions,” added Dr. Cobb. “With millions of newly insured patients having recently entered the health care delivery system, we need to increase the pipeline for new physicians in California.”
Last year’s state budget was a step in the right direction, including $7 million for primary care residency slots. But, to train the hundreds of students graduating in California, more must be done.