Workforce experts predict that the United States will face a shortage of approximately 90,000 physicians by the year 2025. To protect patient access to care, the AMA continues to support legislation to increase Graduate Medical Education (GME) positions instead of cutting the federal funding that supports medical training.
GME stands for “graduate medical education,” more commonly referred to as “residency.” This is the training physicians must complete to specialize and practice independently following medical school. The vast majority of GME positions are funded through federal dollars, primarily Medicare and Medicaid. This funding is important because:
- Medical students carry some of the highest educational debt burdens in the United States. The average medical student graduates with more than $180,000 in education debt. In fact, 84% have some student debt and 45% carry burdens of more than $200,000.
- Despite having a default rate of less than 1%, medical students borrow at higher interest, and as a result repay more per dollar borrowed than undergraduates.
Not Enough Residency Slots
Despite the need for more physicians, the number of unmatched medical students continues to grow. In 2015, 440 seniors in MD programs in the United States did not match to a residency program. This number does not include international medical graduates, previous graduates or other nontraditional applicants.
The Value of GME
Physicians in GME programs provide much needed care in the following ways:
- Many residents train at teaching hospitals where they care for the underserved, indigent and elderly, including 28% of all Medicaid hospitalizations.
- Teaching hospitals (where medical residents train) provide 40% of all charity care—at a cost of $8.4 billion annually.
- Over 37,000 medical residents received some or all of their training at VA hospitals while caring for active soldiers and veterans.
- Medical residents provide complex and acute care. Teaching institutions where residents train often operate at a loss to provide specialized services and support clinical research, and rely on federal GME funding to stay afloat.
The AMA has a history of working to ensure sufficient funding for GME so that medical students have the opportunity to complete their studies and serve the needs of patients. For background on this advocacy work, read the AMA letters on this topic.
Specifically, the AMA supports legislation that would expand GME positions to address the physician shortage.
- Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2015 (H.R. 2124/S. 1148) would create 15,000 new positions over 5 years.
- Creating Access to Residency Education (CARE) Act of 2015 (H.R. 1117) would establish $25 million in matching grants to fund new positions in states with low ratios of residents.