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Friday, October 22nd, 2021

Legislators introduces bill addressing doctor shortages during pandemic

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U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell (D-AK), John Katko (R-NY), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), and Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced legislation Monday designed to mitigate the nationwide physician shortages by boosting the number of Medicare-supported residency positions.

The Resident Physician Shortage Act of 2021 would support an added 2,000 residency positions every year from 2023 to 2029, for a total of 14,000 residency positions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the urgent need for qualified doctors in Alabama and across our Nation. That is why I am re-introducing the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act to increase the number of Medicare-supported residency positions to meet our growing demand for quality health care,” Sewell said. “I am proud this bipartisan legislation also provides hospitals and health centers the tools they need to increase access to care, lower wait times for patients and create a pipeline of qualified medical professionals to serve Americans’ health needs.”

American medical school graduates must complete a residency program to become a practicing doctor in the United States. However, for the past 20 years, a cap on the number of residents funded by Medicare has limited any expansion of training programs and the number of trainees. Medicare is the primary source of payment for residents.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States faces a physician shortage of between 42,600 and 121,300 physicians by 2030. And while the American population grows older, the demand for physicians will only increase, the association said. Additionally, the demand for physicians has only grown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan measure to help hospitals in Central New York and nationwide recruit and retain medical residents,” said Rep. Katko. “Our nation faces a dire physician shortage, and we need to do more to allow teaching hospitals and academic medical centers to train more healthcare professionals. This measure adds more residency spots to Medicare’s Graduate Medical Education (GME) program to train emerging physicians and ensure communities nationwide have better access to care.”

The legislation is endorsed by the Association of American Medical Schools and the American Medical Association.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the vital role that physicians and other health care providers play in our nation’s health care infrastructure. The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act would help expand the physician workforce to address the estimated shortage of physicians and serve as an essential component of our efforts to address current and future public health crises, as well as to bolster our nation’s health care infrastructure and help ensure access to high-quality health care for all. The AAMC is committed to working with Representatives Sewell, Katko, Suozzi, and Davis, along with their House colleagues, to enact this critical piece of legislation that will help alleviate the doctor shortage and improve the health of people everywhere,” said David J. Skorton, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges.