Participating doctors would be retrained and credentialed to serve as primary care physicians at VA medical centers, community health centers, and school-based health centers.
Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) has re-introduced the Primary Care Physician Reentry Act, which identifies and supports programs that retrain doctors to work as primary care providers in health centers serving veterans, local communities and schools.
Rep. John P. Sarbanes, (D-MD)
Sarbanes says the bill would help medical schools, hospitals, and nonprofit organizations provide training and education programs to physicians who have left medical practice for a number of reasons, including to raise their families, to retire or for a career in administration or academia. Participating doctors would be retrained and credentialed to serve as primary care physicians at VA medical centers, community health centers, and school-based health centers.
"We have begun, wisely, to turn our healthcare system in the direction of prevention and primary care and delivery of care at the community level and that all make sense. But if you don't have enough caregivers, physicians in place to deliver those services then you aren't going to make progress on that overall vision," Sarbanes said in a recent phone interview.
"We want to help fill that shortage. And certainly there are traditional ways to do that, such as making sure that recruitment into medical schools and other traditional avenues that bring physicians into the workforce," he says.
"We can also think outside of the box and look for more non-traditional ways of bringing physicians into the workforce, or in this case back into the workforce. If we just streamline the process then we are going to generate more supply and meet the needs of the healthcare system we are designing."
Sarbanes first introduced the bill in September, 2014, but it never received a hearing. He says that's just the way things work in Congress.
"It's pretty much the same bill. Ninety percent of success in life is showing up. The equivalent of showing up for legislation is you keep reintroducing it. As long as it has merit, eventually you will get there," he says. "Frankly, that's part of the process around here. You have to keep running at the chamber and your colleagues over time and begin to bend their consciousness. We think we are making progress. We've kept the provisions pretty much intact."
"That is why you always keep coming back in a new Congress, introduce the bill, assemble your supporters, and continue to make the case to your colleagues and the people who decide what pieces of legislation get put on the floor and what don't."
The bill hasn't been officially scored for cost, but Sarbanes says a back-of-the-envelope calculation puts the cost at around $4 million.
John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.