To Address Doctor Shortage, U.S. To Pay For 1,000 New Residencies

The Biden administration moved to fund an additional 1,000 physician residency slots over the next five years to “address access to care, workforce shortages in high-need areas.”

The money will come from Medicare, which provides health insurance for Americans 65 and older, but also funds direct and indirect costs of graduate medical education in the U.S. including doctors-in-training and residencies, in particular.

Under a rule implemented by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as part of the fiscal 2022 “inpatient prospective payment system,” 1,000 new Medicare-funded physician residency slots will be distributed to qualifying hospitals.  “There will be 200 slots per year over five years,” CMS said Friday in an announcement.

“CMS estimates that funding for the additional residency slots, once fully phased in, will total approximately $1.8 billion over the next 10 years,” the agency said Friday. “In implementing a section of the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021, this is the largest increase in Medicare-funded residency slots in over 25 years. Other sections of the CAA being implemented further promote increasing training in rural areas and increasing graduate medical education payments to hospitals meeting certain criteria.”

The lack of funding for residency slots to expand the pool of physicians in the U.S. has been an issue for more than two decades. The Association of American Medical Colleges, which has long complained of a lack of funding for doctor training, earlier this year said the U.S. “could see an estimated shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034, including shortfalls in both primary and specialty care.”

But Congress earlier this year took steps to address the lack of such money for doctors-in-training.

“CMS recognizes the importance of encouraging more health professionals to work in rural and underserved areas, and the need to train and retain physicians to improve access to health care in these communities,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said. “The CAA created a tremendous opportunity for us to address health care inequities, and CMS is grateful to Congress for their action on this important issue.”

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