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Fiscal Fix Needed for Physician Training

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, December 13, 2012

If not, physician shortages may worsen in years ahead because trained physicians won't have residency options without the adequate funding, she explains. And as President Obama and Congress try to sort out deficit reduction plans, there is still the possibility that they may decide on further physician training cutbacks, according to Mitchell.

At this point, "we're probably going to see the first physicians graduate from medical school with no place to train," Mitchell says. "If you don't do your residency, you don't get your license."

The AAMC sees it this way: while medical schools are educating new doctors to help address anticipated shortages, those docs may not be able to complete their training and enter practice unless Congress removes "a 15-year-old cap" that has limited federal support through Medicare for residency positions at teaching hospitals.

That's the message Darrel G. Kirch, MD, president and CEO of the AAMC, wrote in a letter to Congress this week. The AAMC is a not-for profit association representing 141 accredited medical schools in the U.S. and 17 in Canada, 400 teaching hospitals and health systems, as well as 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers and dozens of academic and scientific societies.

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has estimated that there would be $454 million cuts from major teaching hospitals, according to AAMC. "Cutting GME will worsen dramatically and potentially double the shortage of 90,000 physicians we already expect by the end of the decade," Kirch wrote.

According to the AAMC, the U.S. faces a shortage of 90,000 physicians by 2020, and that number is expected to grow to more than 130,000 by 2025.

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