U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, from Pennsylvania, has introduced legislation that would increase the number of residency slots by 15,000 nationwide by 2019 — a 58 percent increase over the 26,000 slots currently funded through Medicare.
Physician shortages and lack of residency slots are a growing problem nationwide. Given the aging of baby boomers and the influx of veterans in need of care, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts a shortage of 91,500 physicians by 2020, a number expected to increase to 130,600 by 2025. The changing health care landscape is also rapidly increasing the demand for physicians.
The Residency Physician Shortage Reduction Act would remove the cap on the number of federally-funded residency slots available at teaching hospitals across the county. In 1997, Congress capped the number of residencies funded through Medicare at 26,000.
The legislation also would require the National Health Care Workforce Commission to submit a report on specialty physician shortages to Congress no later than Jan. 1, 2016, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office to report on methods for increasing diversity among health care providers.
“We are very encouraged by this initiative to increase the number of physicians which would no doubt improve the quality of care and improve disparities in access to care,” said Bruce MacLeod, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED).
“This would have a tremendous impact on our country, were we to get it enacted,” Sen. Casey recently told a group of residents, physicians, and hospital administrators. “We want to make sure we give you the tools to do your job.”
In Pennsylvania, the state House passed a resolution last spring directing the Joint State Government Commission to study physician workforce issues and report back with recommendations.
PAMED, along with many Pennsylvania physicians, continues to encourage the state legislature and Gov. Corbett to keep the additional funding in the state budget for increased residency slots and student loan forgiveness.