November 30, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Physician Workforce Professional Development & Education
In an effort to increase the number of medical residency slots and to help address the national physician shortage, delegates to the American Medical Association (AMA) renewed their support for alternative funding sources for graduate medical education (GME). AMA also adopted policy to explore additional funding models for GME beyond those examined in the Institute of Medicine’s 2014 report on GME governance and financing.
Under the new policy, AMA will encourage insurance payors and foundations to enter into partnerships with state and local agencies, as well as academic medical centers and community hospitals, to expand GME funding. The policy also calls on organizations with successful GME funding models to share strategies, outcomes and implementation costs. Additionally, AMA plans to increase public awareness of the importance of graduate medical education, student debt and the state of the medical profession.
“We are committed to expanding funding for GME to ensure that there are enough residency slots to train physicians in regions where health care services are needed most,” said AMA Board Member Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D. “This means urging all health care payers at local, state and federal levels as well as private entities to work together to adequately fund GME programs with the goal of reducing physician shortages and increasing patient access to the care they need.”
The United States is facing a severe shortage of doctors, which is expected to get exponentially worse as the population continues to grow and our aging physician workforce moves toward retirement. It is projected that by 2025 we will have up to 90,000 fewer physicians than the country needs. While advances in technology and workflow will certainly make physicians more efficient over time, the need for more doctors is still larger than ever to take on the current challenges in the health care system.
GME is the hands-on training phase of physician education that is mandatory in order for physicians to obtain licenses for independent practice. During this clinical training, residents also provide needed care for one out of every five hospitalized patients, including our seniors, veterans and patients in underserved communities.
With a growing demand for health care services, cuts to federal funding for physician residency programs will only worsen physician shortages across the country. Workforce experts predict a physician shortage of 62,900 as soon as 2015, which will increase to 130,000 by 2025.This shortage increases demand on our health care delivery system as more seniors begin to join the Medicare program and newly insured Americans seek access to care.
Although federal, state and private funds pay for GME, federal contributions through Medicare make up the bulk of the funding, about $9.5 billion annually nationwide. This figure hasn’t changed in nearly 20 years. Inadequate funding for residency programs means that last year, 440 U.S. seniors in M.D. programs did not find a residency spot – and that needs to change!
AMA and the California Medical Association are supporting two legislative initiatives: the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2015 (H.R. 2124/S. 1148) and the Creating Access to Residency Education Act of 2015 (H.R. 1117). AMA is seeking additional champions in Congress as well as innovative solutions to help advance this critical issue, which will dramatically affect access to health care for the entire country.
For more information and details on how you can get involved, including sample letters, tweets and talking points, visit www.savegme.org.