Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019: What Medical Students Should Know

July 27, 2019


If you’re working toward your medical residency, you may have heard rumblings of a coming shortage of residency positions. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) this week released a report revealing that enrollment in US medical schools has grown by 31 percent since 2002. Coupled with increases at DO-granting schools, overall enrollment is up  a whopping 52 percent over the same time period.

The increases, in large part, are a result of the AAMC’s 2006 call for a 30-percent boost in first-year medical student enrollment by the 2015-2016 academic year to proactively stave off a projected, potentially critical shortage of skilled physicians.

“US medical schools have responded to the AAMC’s call to action by significantly expanding enrollment,” AAMC Executive Vice President Atul Grover, MD, PhD, said in a statement. “Now the national focus must shift to increasing the number of residency training slots so the nation will have enough physicians to combat the impending shortage and care for our growing and aging population.”

A primary issue is the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which imposed caps on the number of residents for which each teaching hospital is eligible to receive Medicare direct graduate medical education (DGME) and indirect medical education (IME) payments. But newly proposed legislation could help relieve the unintended pressure on residency availability. The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019 (H.R. 1763/S. 348) would increase the number of residency positions eligible for Medicare DGME and IME support by 15,000 slots above the current caps.

Each bill proposes different requirements as to the number of residency slots created at various hospitals and places priority on certain institutions, such as hospitals in states with new medical schools, those with Veterans Affairs medical centers and non-rural hospitals that operate a training program in a rural area or a program with an integrated rural track. Both the House and Senate bill would require at least 50 percent of additional slots in each fiscal year to be directed to a shortage specialty residency program, as defined by the Health Resources and Services Administration. And both bills would require the Government Accountability Office to study and analyze strategies for increasing the number of health professionals from rural, lower income and underrepresented minority communities in the workforce.

“The cap on residency positions will continue to exacerbate the projected physician shortage until Congress acts,” Grover said. “The medical education community has done its part. Now, Congress must do its part by passing the bipartisan Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act.”

WOLFPACC will keep readers updated on the legislative process. Meanwhile, make sure you’re best prepared for your USMLE and COMLEX exams as well as your future residencies by enrolling at WOLFPACC. Find out how by calling 904-209-3140.