FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Susan Collins (R-ME) Friday to introduce a bill that would increase the amount of Medicare-funded medical residency slots available across the country.

The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act calls for the federal government to expand the current amount of graduate medical education, or GME, positions that it supports by 14,000 over the next seven years.

Priority would be given to positions in hospitals located in states with new medical schools, rural areas, Health Professional Shortage Areas, and hospitals training over their current GME caps.

This announcement comes after a KNWA/Fox24 special report in February, where Arkansas healthcare leaders shared with KNWA Today’s Perry Elyaderani that their primary strategy for addressing Arkansas’ growing health provider shortage was through expanding the state’s allocation of GME slots. In this reporting, hospital and community leaders explained that the caps on GME slots were established decades ago for many of the state’s larger institutions and were hoping for a shift in this policy.

Sen. Boozman issued the following statement in a press release accompanying the bill’s introduction:

“To ensure we are prepared for evolving challenges in medical care and treating patients, we must have a well-trained physician workforce. Arkansans and communities throughout the country depend on access to life-saving and preventative care, which underscores the need for an ample pipeline of medical students. By expanding training opportunities for medical school graduates, we can help address the growing shortage of physicians nationwide and improve access to quality health care close to home,” Boozman said.

To learn more about growing need for more healthcare workers in Arkansas, check out our in-depth reporting on the issue, linked here.