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End-Of-Year Legislation Includes First Expansion Of GME Slots Since 1997; Amid Pandemic Sweeping Through Nation, Doctors & Access To Physician Care Is More Important Than Ever

Schumer Has Been Pushing For Over A Decade To Increase GME Slots, Esp In Upstate New York; Says Legislation Tackles Regional Doctor Shortage, Head-On

Schumer: End-Of-Year Bill Will Help Alleviate Upstate New York’s Doctor Shortage; However, More Must Be Done To Make Sure Every New Yorker Has Access To World-Class Care

After over a decade of fighting for more Graduate Medical Education (GME) slots to expand healthcare access in Upstate New York, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced the inclusion of a provision that creates 1,000 new GME slots in the recently-signed 2020 end-of-year omnibus legislation. The provision will increase the number of Medicare-supported physician training residency slots nationwide, including in Upstate New York, which has been experiencing a steady decline in the number of primary care physicians available to meet a growing demand for health care.

“I am pleased we were able to include important legislation to address the alarming problem of doctor shortages plaguing New York and the entire country, especially during a global pandemic. This is the first time in more than 20 years that Congress has created more openings to train doctors, and it couldn’t come at a more critical time,” said Senator Schumer. “The bill I championed tackles the doctor shortage head-on by creating new residency training slots nationwide and prioritizing those slots for communities that need them most. However, while this is a welcome first step, our work is not complete. More work must be done to ensure that every single New Yorker has access to world-class health care and I will not rest until that becomes a reality.”

“A long-time champion of New York’s teaching hospitals, Sen. Schumer has led the fight in Congress to increase Medicare-supported graduate medical education training,” said HANYS President Bea Grause, RN, JD.  “As the nation faces an unprecedented shortage of physicians in the midst of a pandemic, federal support for the GME program and our teaching hospitals has never been more necessary. Thanks to Minority Leader Schumer’s tireless efforts, Congress took the first step in addressing this crisis by increasing the number of Medicare-funded residency slots for the first time in over 20 years. This enables our world class teaching hospitals to train more resident physicians, strengthens the nation’s healthcare workforce and ensures access to care for our communities.”

“Senator Schumer has long warned that the nation faces a worsening physician shortage,” said Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth E. Raske. “Now, thanks to his tireless efforts, help is finally on the way. For the first time in two decades, hospitals will soon be training more physicians through Medicare-funded residency slots. The teaching hospital community is deeply grateful to Senator Schumer for his stalwart leadership.”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. is expected to face a shortage of up to 43,100 primary care physicians and 61,800 specialty physicians by 2030. Schumer said especially as Upstate New York battles a second wave of COVID cases, the need for accessible health care has never been greater. A recent survey of hospitals by the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) found that: 71 percent of respondents said their current primary care capacity is insufficient to meet current patient needs, with 77 percent reporting a deficit to meet future needs. 81 percent of respondents indicated that primary care physicians are very difficult to recruit, while 84 percent indicated that recruitment of primary care physicians is one of their critical strategies for improving access to care. 72 percent of respondents indicated that their ability to recruit primary care physicians remained the same or worsened, and 86 percent of upstate hospitals report that there are times when they have to transfer patients from the emergency department because the care they need is not available.

Medicare, through its GME payment system, compensates teaching hospitals for Medicare’s share of the costs directly related to training residents. Medicare does not make payments related to the education of medical students. Schumer said the cost to hospitals of training a resident averages $100,000 or more a year, of which Medicare covers roughly 40 percent of that total. Rural hospitals, hospitals that are already above their Medicare cap for residency positions, hospitals in states with new medical schools, and hospitals that serve Health Professional Shortage Areas will be eligible for these new positions.

In addition to expanding the GME program, Schumer also secured important improvements to the GME program that will enhance partnerships between urban and rural hospitals, and ensure that new physicians are trained in all areas across New York State. First, the bill makes change the Medicare GME Rural Training Tracks program to provide greater flexibility for rural and urban hospitals that participate. The program allows urban and rural hospitals to collaborate to train residents in rural settings and increase access to care in rural areas. Second, the bill allows hospitals, particularly smaller upstate hospitals, to host residents from urban hospitals on a temporary basis without sacrificing their ability to have full-time residents as well.