Healthcare Business News
Dr. Darrell Kirch, president and CEO, Association of American Medical Colleges

AAMC backs bill to fund more residency slots

By Rich Daly
Posted: August 7, 2012 - 11:45 am ET

The advocacy group for the nation's medical schools came out this week in support of new legislation to fund 15,000 more residency slots.

The Association of American Medical Colleges joined individual medical schools that backed the bill by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) when he introduced it last week.

“The new residency positions created by this legislation, along with the thoughtful approach to achieving transparency and accountability for graduate medical education, represent the beginning of a comprehensive strategy to make sure Americans have access to the care they need,” Dr. Darrell Kirch, president and CEO of AAMC, said in a news release.

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The Physician Shortage Reduction and Graduate Medical Education Accountability and Transparency Act aims to reduce the nation's physician shortage, which AAMC projects will reach more than 90,000 by 2020, by adding a total of 15,000 Medicare-funded slots over five years. The AAMC estimates that the legislation will provide an average of 4,000 new U.S. physicians each year and cut the projected shortage by one-third.

The bill's transparency and accountability provisions aim to show the extent that resident training programs are addressing various federal priorities, including how to use health information technology.

The nation's medical schools have been increasing enrollment in recent years, and an AAMC official said the additional residency slots would keep pace with that increase. Even with the higher medical school enrollment, the overall supply of U.S.-trained physicians cannot increase without more residency training slots.

The number of residency training positions supported by Medicare was capped 15 years ago by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.

Medicare is the primary funding source for the training slots, according to Schock's office, and the three- to seven-year residency programs in specific specialties provide the experience needed to practice medicine independently.

The bill would cap hospital funding at 75 new slots in order to increase the likelihood that small and rural hospitals would receive some of the positions, as well as large hospitals and health systems, according to Schock's office. One-third of the new slots would go to hospitals that have self-funded the most residency positions in recent years.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced legislation a year ago that also would add 15,000 residency slots.

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