The American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) contacted the Senate Finance Committee to urge a hearing for and support of unanimous passage of S 824. Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2021 introduced by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), John Boozman (R-Ark), and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Each year, more women are being admitted to medical school, and now make up about 50% of the entering class in both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools across the United States. Graduation from medical school is only the first step in the journey to becoming a practicing physician. Each med school graduate must match into (gain placement to) a residency program and complete at least a year of training to obtain a state license and then commit between 3-5 years of residency training to become board eligible in a chosen specialty. Often, more years are required in a fellowship program to achieve subspecialty training.
While the number of medical graduates has increased, the number of residency slots has not kept up with eligible medical school graduates. Thus, leaving many aspiring doctors with substantial debt and significant uncertainty about their future in medicine. The Balanced Budget Act capped the number of resident positions funded thru Medicare since the mid-1990s. Bipartisan congressional leaders last year added 1,000 new Medicare-supported graduate medical education positions targeted at rural and other teaching hospitals ending a nearly 25-year freeze on Medicare support for Graduate Medical Education.
That’s a great start but still is not sufficient to assure a fully capable and available medical force, especially with the world facing a pandemic. There is an urgent need to permit better medical training preparation—the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act will permit the expansion of federally-supported medical residency positions—increasing the number by 2,000 annually for seven years. Passage of this legislation will directly address the growing physician shortage and assure access to quality health care for many more patients.
Our hardworking medical students need more residency positions to complete their training. Our communities need more capable physicians. AMWA has consistently supported women in medicine and joins with other medical organizations in calling for unanimous support in favor of S. 834, the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act.