Noteworthy News

Deficit Reduction Could Jeopardize Physician Training, Access to Care

Could the current deficit reduction effort jeopardize the nation’s supply of future doctors and access to care?

Medicare’s medical education payments – both for indirect medical education (IME) and graduate medical education (GME) – are widely thought to be on the table in the current deliberations of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the congressional “supercommittee” created this summer to propose at least $1.2 trillion in federal spending cuts by the end of the year.

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, medical education payment cuts could hurt communities in two ways.

First, many communities suffer a physician shortage.  Cutting medical education payments could result in fewer trained doctors available to meet some communities’ medical needs.

Second, many doctors in training spend much of their residencies treating patients.  If Medicare cuts its medical education payments, many hospitals might be forced to hire fewer medical residents, thereby jeopardizing access to care in clinics and emergency rooms.

Reduced medical education payments would be especially harmful for urban safety-net hospitals, most of which have teaching programs.  These hospitals rely on medical education programs both to fill future staff openings and to care for many of the low-income patients they treat in their emergency rooms and clinics.  Without medical residents, or with fewer residents, many people in the communities they serve may have difficulty obtaining timely treatment for their health problems.

NAUH has asked members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to preserve Medicare IME and GME payments at their current levels.  In addition, NAUH member hospitals contacted members of their own congressional delegations and conveyed the same message.  NAUH will continue to monitor the work of the supercommittee and respond to any proposal to reduce Medicare IME or GME payments.

Read the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report hereCongress Chamber.

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