Preserve Graduate Medical Education Funding
Preserve Graduate Medical Education Funding
We face a frightening future where millions of Americans will be unable to find access to healthcare - even if they have insurance. A national doctor shortage is upon us. You may have already noticed longer waiting times to see a doctor or difficulty finding a specialist. Things are only going to get worse as the physician shortage increases over the next decade. President Obama’s most recent budget proposal includes an $11 billion cut in graduate medical education (GME) funding over 10 years, thereby decreasing our nation’s ability to train doctors. Join us in telling Congress to protect physician training, because America Deserves Doctors.
Why is there a shortage? Our population is growing, people are living longer, more seniors are joining the Medicare program and 24 million Americans are becoming newly eligible for insurance through the Affordable Care Act, putting our healthcare system will be under great strain to meet the increased demand. Last year, the Senate reported a physician shortage of 16,000 doctors and experts from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predict that it will rise to 62,900 doctors by 2015. The US has already dramatically increased the number of medical students trained each year, but unfortunately, without residency funding, these new doctors are unable to become licensed and practice medicine.
How do doctors get trained and licensed? After finishing medical school, graduates must enter a residency program, formally called graduate medical education (GME), to complete the required years of clinical training necessary to obtain a medical license. Residency is not only the training period for students to become seasoned doctors, but during training, residents also provide valuable services, caring for 1 out of every 5 hospitalized patients, including our seniors, veterans, persons with disabilities, and patients in our lowest-income communities. Without this training, not only is our nation’s sick population not going to have sufficient access to doctors, but we will have fewer physicians to coordinate and practice the necessary preventative medicine that drives down healthcare costs.
Why and how is the federal government involved? GME funding comes from a combination of the the teaching hospital itself, as well as state and federal resources. The federal government guaranteed support for GME residency since the advent of Medicare, but cuts are now imminent. The 2013 sequestration forced Medicare to cut 2% of its contribution to GME, but that’s not all. In addition, President Obama’s most recent budget proposal includes $11 billion in additional cuts directly to GME. GME funding is a clear target for cuts, which will place a substantial burden on hospitals' ability to train residents into future physicians, further tightening the bottleneck for licensed doctors. We must think long-term and urge Congress to preserve GME funding, so that all patients can see a doctor when they need one.
Please join our country’s patients, patient advocates, medical students, residents, and physicians in signing this petition to save funding for Graduate Medical Education. America Deserves Doctors.
Here are 10 reasons why Congress should save funding for Graduate Medical Education:
1. Address physician shortages —
- Workforce experts predict that without adequate, stable funding for GME, the United States will face a shortage of 62,900 physicians in 2015. This figure is based on an assumption that Medicare funding for physician training programs remains unchanged. Proposed cuts to GME will only exacerbate this shortage.
- Physicians are already strapped with current patient-loads. Currently, the U.S. physician to patient ratio is 357 patients to 1 doctor. Today’s residents are only able to spend an average of 8 minutes with each patient. Residents will be forced to spend even less time with each patient because of the physician shortage.
- 1 in 3 physicians is expected to retire in the next 10 years. We need to produce enough young physicians to take over their practices and patient loads.
2. Ensure patients can access a doctor when they need one —
- With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”), the demand for physicians will significantly increase as 24 million Americans enter the insurance pool and begin seeking healthcare services in 2014.
- Americans will increasingly rely on emergency room services as a primary source of care. Emergency departments are a higher-cost setting. Less continuity of care with consistent providers results in poorer quality of care at a higher cost for American taxpayers.
3. Make healthcare accessible to our neediest populations — Many medical residents train at teaching hospitals where they care for the poor, homeless, and elderly. These hospitals and physicians-in-training care for 28 percent of all Medicaid patients who are hospitalized each year.
4. Protect charity care—Teaching hospitals (where medical residents train) provide approximately 40 percent of all charity care for patients who are unable to pay, for whatever reason. This free care would otherwise cost taxpayers an additional $8.4 billion annually.
5. Care for our veterans—More than 37,000 medical residents receive some or all of their training at VA hospitals where they provide care for active duty soldiers and military veterans.
6. Contribute to advancements in medicine— Medical residents provide care for some of the most complex medical cases. Teaching hospitals where residents train often operate at a financial loss to provide specialized services and conduct clinical research. Insurance reimbursements and patient payments alone do not cover the full operating costs so these hospitals rely on federal GME funding to stay afloat.
7. Meet the needs of our growing and aging population—Workforce experts predict that increases in the population and a growing number of seniors with longer life expectancies will significantly increase demand for physician services in the United States.
8. Ensure training opportunities exist for medical school graduates—While new U.S. medical schools are opening and many medical schools have expanded their enrollments to meet the need for more physicians, GME training programs are lagging behind due to limited federal funding. As a result, we may be producing more U.S. medical school graduates than available residency spots as soon as 2015.
9. Continue providing opportunities for international medical graduates— Physicians who attended medical school outside of the United States currently make up 27 percent of medical residents and fellows in the United States and 25 percent of all practicing physicians. These doctors help to fill gaps in our healthcare system as many of them provide primary care and work in physician shortage areas such as inner city and rural communities.
10. Encourage our nation’s best and brightest students to pursue a medical career—Becoming a physician requires a huge personal and financial commitment; most physicians have spent over 20 years in school by the time they reach their residency training. Without adequately funded training positions to guarantee the ability to practice medicine at the end of this long road, students may be discouraged from pursuing a career in medicine — especially those from low-income communities and racial minority groups for whom educational access already presents many additional barriers. This could have major long-term impacts on who goes into medicine and whether or not our future physicians are well-equipped to deal with diverse patient populations.