Sen. Boozman aims to address Arkansas physician shortage through legislation

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U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR)

WASHINGTON (KNWA/KFTA) — Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) hopes to address Arkansas’ physician shortage through bipartisan legislation that would raise an arbitrary cap limiting the number of Medicare-funded new doctors.

In a column posted by Modern Healthcare, Boozman outlined a solution to the physician shortage.

Boozman and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) recently introduced the Resident Physician Shortage Act to increase the number of Medicare-funded Graduate Medical Education positions by an additional 14,000 over seven years.

For over 20 years, the cap has remained unchanged.

This cap on the number of residency positions funded by Medicare has contributed to a provider shortage and prevents medical school graduates from continuing their training where they want to live and work. These capped slots are the primary source of payment for doctors-in-training.

A recent analysis of physician supply and demand by the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that the U.S. is expected to face a shortage of up to 124,000 doctors by 2034. The warnings of an impending deficit were raised well before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but consequences from the public health emergency have led to increased urgency to address it.

Rural states like Arkansas face an acute need for medical providers, but up to half of medical school graduates in the state are forced to seek residency training elsewhere due to a lack of available positions, according to Boozman. This often results in a loss of future physicians, given the tendency for residents to practice close to the communities where they complete their training.

Last year, Congress increased the number of Medicare-supported GME positions by 1,000. While this represents modest progress, it is not sufficient to replace the rate of physicians retiring or leaving practice for other reasons.

Senator John Boozman

Boozman and Menendez have led legislative efforts for change for several years. The new bill would help provide more well-trained primary and specialty doctors, leading to longer lives and better healthcare outcomes in both urban and rural communities.

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