June 17, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced bipartisan and bicameral legislation today to expand access to physician training and address the looming shortages of health care providers across the country.
The Physician Shortage GME Cap Flex Act gives hospitals additional time to establish the number of residency positions reimbursed by Medicare. The bill provides targeted assistance to hospitals training primary care physicians and specialists where there is a demonstrated shortage.
The United States already faces a shortage of doctors. The cap on residency positions makes it even harder to keep up with demand. The Physician Shortage GME Cap Flex Act gives the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) the flexibility to expand physician training where it is needed most.
“We must focus on training the next generation of health care providers,” Barrasso said. “This is not a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats agree solutions are needed to meet the critical shortages of physicians across our country. This situation is especially urgent in rural communities. I am proud to help lead this bipartisan effort to expand physician training in the places and specialties needing it most.”
“Every Nevadan deserves access to high-quality medical care, but our state continues to experience a shortage of health care professionals, including doctors. This bill will allow more physicians to get critical residency training funded by Medicare, which will mean more doctors for our rural areas and more physicians in underserved roles. I’ll continue working in the Senate to do everything I can to ensure Nevadans have access to quality health care,” Cortez Masto said.
The House version of the Physician Shortage GME Cap Flex Act was introduced by Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA), Rep. Larry Buschon, M.D. (R-IN), Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), and Rep. Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M. (R-OH).
The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 established caps on the number of residency positions funded by Medicare. The policy has made it difficult for the United States to meet the growing demand for medical care.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States will face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034. This problem is most acute in rural and underserved communities. For example, while 20% of the population lives in rural communities, only 11% of doctors practice there.
The Physician Shortage GME Cap Flex Act addresses the looming shortage of physicians by increasing the number of residency slots funded by Medicare. Under current law, hospitals have five years to establish the number of residency positions reimbursed by Medicare. This legislation gives hospitals an additional five years to build their residency programs. The bill specifically targets hospitals working in underserved areas, training primary care and specialties facing shortages.