Although Congress took action last year to fund new physician residency training slots, the need to put more physicians into the pipeline remains apparent to many policymakers. On June 2, 2021, new legislation was introduced to expand and make permanent a program that helps train primary-care and dental residents in high-need areas. These training programs offer additional venues for graduate medical education to new physicians and dentists while at the same time offering enhanced services to communities in need.
The proposal from Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate health committee, would permanently fund the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program.
Most teaching sites in the THCGME Program are located within Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), Rural Health Clinics, and tribal health centers. The program prioritizes care for high-need communities and vulnerable populations. Over half (59 percent) of THCGME program training sites are in Medically Underserved Communities (MUCs). Training in these communities increases providers to bring health care services to communities in need while offering valuable education to physicians-in-training.
Last year, Congress added 1,000 new Medicare-supported Graduate Medical Education (GME) positions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 – the first increase of its kind in nearly 25 years. Earlier this year, The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2021 was introduced to gradually raise the number of Medicare-supported GME positions by 2,000 per year for seven years, for a total of 14,000 new slots.
Currently, the THCGME Program receives financial support of approximately $126 million per year, but that funding will expire in 2023 unless renewed or made permanent.