Increasing residency slots could help reduce physician shortages

Medical schools have increased enrollment, but a lack of residency positions could present a roadblock to boosting the physician work force.

By Susan J. Landers — Posted July 17, 2009

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

Congress should ensure that health system reform legislation includes provisions that increase the number of Medicare-supported residency positions to help reduce projected physician shortages, said the Assn. of American Medical Colleges.

Such provisions are part of bills introduced in May in the Senate and the House of Representatives, said AAMC Chief Advocacy Officer Atul Grover, MD, PhD, during a June 30 briefing. The meeting was held to emphasize the role that an increase in residency positions would play in alleviating physician shortages, a concern voiced in the health system reform debate.

The bills would expand the number of residency positions by 15% -- an increase of about 15,000 residency slots, according to the bills' sponsors.

"The bottom line is that the caps on resident training positions funded by Medicare are restricting the ability of medical schools and teaching hospitals to increase the nation's physician work force," Dr. Grover said.

The bills call for lifting the cap placed by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 on the number of resident physicians each teaching hospital can claim for reimbursement under Medicare. Medicare generally does not reimburse such hospitals for training residents beyond the capped number of slots. The bills are supported by the American Medical Association.

The measures' provisions should be folded into health system reform legislation now being crafted in congressional committees, the AAMC said. "Congress' efforts to develop comprehensive health care reform are the best opportunity that the nation has to address the Medicare caps," said Dr. Grover.

An AAMC report released last fall concluded that the nation could face a shortage of 125,000 to 159,000 physicians by 2025, said Edward Salsberg, director of the AAMC Center for Workforce Studies.

To help meet the demand, medical schools are enrolling more students -- about 6,000 additional graduates per year. But without a parallel increase in residency positions, those students will not have vital training opportunities, Salsberg said.

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn