The AMA is encouraging physicians, other healthcare providers, and patients to contact their representatives and urge them to retain Medicare funding for graduate medical education (GME) programs and increase the number of residency slots.
If Congress does not take action to address the sequester that is scheduled to go into effect March 1, GME faces severe cuts in Medicare financing via across-the-board cuts. According to the AMA, such cuts would limit access to care for patients, jeopardize the ability of residency programs to train physicians, and threaten additional physician shortages. Furthermore, the federal government froze the number of available GME slots in 1997. The problem is that medical schools are expanding their medical programs in order to meet demand for the physician shortage, which is estimated to be 130,000 by 2025.
If Congress does not act to raise the number of residency slots, U.S. medical school graduates will exceed the number of available slots as soon as 2015. “Residency training gives new physicians hands-on experience and provides high-quality care to patients,” said AMA President Jeremy Lazarus, M.D. in a statement. “Limiting the slots available to train physicians as they leave medical school creates a bottleneck in the system and prevents the physician workforce from growing to meet the needs of our nation’s patients.” To educate the public on this situation and encourage action, the AMA launched a new campaign called Save GME. The campaign’s website, saveGME.org, features a six-slide presentation that illustrates the expected physician shortage and the important services residents provide. Some of the key facts include:
- 40% of all charity care in the U.S. is provided in teaching hospitals
- 90% of teaching hospitals provide ambulatory services to HIV/AIDS patients compared to 14% of non-teaching hospitals.
- Residents work between 40 and 80 per week at a median salary of $49,651, while managing an average medical student debt of $166,750.
The presentation ends with a call to action, asking everyone to contact their representative. Time will tell if Congress gets the message.