Legislation Introduced To Address Physician Shortages

American Medical News reported on new legislation to reduce the current and projected physician shortages by raising the cap on Medicare-funded residency slots. The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2009, which was introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives, would increase the number of Medicare-supported residency positions by 15 percent, or about 15,000 additional slots, to bring the total to 115,000.

The measures would also give preference to positions in primary care, general surgery, nonhospital community-based settings and other areas of need. They also would change regulations to let residents train in nonhospital settings and allow residency slots from closed hospitals to be used by nearby teaching hospitals so the slots are not lost, as is currently the case, according to the article.

“The bills lift a cap placed by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 on the number of resident physicians each teaching hospital can claim for reimbursement under Medicare,” American Medical News reports. “Medicare does not generally reimburse such hospitals for training residents beyond the capped number of slots." The story quoted Sen. Charles Schumer, D - N.Y., a bill co-sponsor, as saying: "No health care reform effort will be complete or even adequate unless we address the shortage of doctors in this country" (Landers, 5/29).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.