AMA Wire

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

This Week's News

Legislation to increase number of residency slots introduced in Congress

Legislation to increase number of residency slots introduced in Congress

Hoping to address the nation's imminent physician shortage, legislators in both chambers of Congress have introduced bills to create more medical residency slots for the growing number of U.S. medical graduates.

Last week the Resident Physician Shortage Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate, and the bipartisan Training Tomorrow's Doctors Today Act was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives. The bills aim to help meet the nation's increasing demand for new physicians by funding an additional 15,000 Medicare-supported graduate medical education (GME) positions over the next five years.

"The AMA applauds the leadership of Senators Bill Nelson, Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid and Representatives Aaron Schock and Allyson Schwartz for introducing legislation to address physician shortages and create additional GME positions to ensure patient access to care," AMA President Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD, said in a statement.

The bills use different formulas to allocate the new residency slots, but both pieces of legislation give priority to hospitals that already offer more residency slots than the number for which they receive funding and those in states with new medical schools. The bills also target expansion of residency programs and specialties in which a shortage already exists.

Despite workforce experts' predictions that the nation will experience a shortage of 130,000 physicians across all specialties by 2025, Congress has not lifted the cap on Medicare-funded residency slots since 1997.

Meanwhile, medical schools have expanded their enrollment to prepare for the shortage, and graduates are finding it increasingly difficult to secure a residency position in which they can complete their training.

"We will continue to work with members of Congress to advance this important issue to meet the nation's need for more physicians," Dr. Lazarus said. "In keeping with the AMA's historic leadership in physician education at all levels, we are also working to strategically reshape physician education in the United States to meet current and future workforce needs."