Sunday, August 25, 2013

Save GME and Alleviate the Physician Shortage!

I’m sure that most have heard of the massive physician shortage this country faces, especially the shortage of primary care physicians. Under the sequestration, Congress has cut funding to Medicare by 2%, and Graduate Medical Education (GME) is part of Medicare. This is unfortunate, but just about everything funded by the government has taken a cut. Now more importantly, President Obama's 2014 budget includes an $11 billion cut to GME over the next decade! Pediatric residencies are funded separately, and Obama's budget includes a reduction from $265 million to $88 million in 2014! GME has already been cut 2% due to the sequestration, which equates to about 2000 residency positions out of the current 100,000 funded residency slots (a cap set by Congress in 1997). GME provides medical school graduates, or residents, the opportunity to complete the required years of clinical training necessary to obtain a medical license and become a practicing physician.

This year 528 U.S. MD medical graduates did not match into a residency, which is more than double the number from last year. Including DO (osteopathic) and foreign medical graduates, there were about 1700 that did not match into a residency. With a current physician shortage of about 16,000 and about 25 million Americans entering the health care system in the next few years under the Affordable Care Act, cuts to federal funding for residency programs will only worsen physician shortages. Workforce experts predict a shortage of 62,900 physicians by as soon as 2015.

Congress can help remedy this problem by doing two things: (1) retaining federal funding for GME, and (2) raising or eliminating the annual cap on the number of residents each year (currently 100,000). We need these changes in order to protect our most vulnerable Americans. I need you to submit letters to your Senators and Representatives to tell them to do these things. You can find your Senators here and your Representative here. You can basically copy much of this post for use in your letter. Thanks for your help!