As the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) implements provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA) to fund new medical residency positions in hospitals serving rural and underserved communities, the American College of Radiology is advocating for radiology training slots in those underserved areas to be made part of the new funding mix. This advocacy came in a letter from ACR Chief Executive Officer William T. Thorwarth, Jr., MD, to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure on February 22, 2022, in response to CMS regulations inviting comment.
In December 2021, CMS published the FY 2022 Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) final rule - with a comment period - which created 1,000 new Medicare-funded physician residency slots for qualifying hospitals, phasing in 200 slots per year over five years. The additional funding is estimated to total approximately $1.8 billion from FY 2023 through FY 2031. In doing so, CMS will be prioritizing applications from qualifying hospitals that serve geographic areas with the greatest need and underserved populations.
ACR's letter to CMS cited a study in the February 2021 issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology reporting that Medicare beneficiaries who receive care at rural and critical access hospitals were 6.9% and 18.0% less likely, respectively, to undergo advanced imaging, underscoring the importance that Medicare beneficiaries in underserved areas have access to radiology services. The ACR's letter asks that CMS consider including radiology residency slots when allocating additional residency slots across the country.
When the IPPS final rule was adopted in December, CMS's Director of the Center for Medicare, Dr. Meena Seshamani said, “Doctors are most likely to practice in the areas where they do their residencies. Having additional residents train in the very areas that need the most support can not only bolster the numbers of providers in these underserved areas but also train them with a unique understanding of the specific needs of these communities." One hopes that as CMS allocates the new residency training slots, it will not overlook the opportunity to bring newly trained radiologists to rural and underserved areas.
The FY 2022 IPPS final rule with comment period is displayed at the Federal Register.