Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Representing the 7th District of Alabama
 

Rep. Sewell Introduces Legislation to Tackle Doctor Shortages During COVID-19 Pandemic

Mar 29, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell (D-AL), John Katko (NY-24), Tom Suozzi (NY-03), and Rodney Davis (IL-13) introduced legislation that would take critical steps towards reducing nationwide physician shortages by boosting the number of Medicare-supported residency positions. The Resident Physician Shortage Act of 2021 would support an additional 2,000 positions each year from 2023 to 2029, for a total of 14,000 residency positions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the urgent need for qualified doctors in Alabama and across our Nation. That is why I am re-introducing the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act to increase the number of Medicare-supported residency positions to meet our growing demand for quality health care,” said Rep. Terri Sewell. “I am proud this bipartisan legislation also provides hospitals and health centers the tools they need to increase access to care, lower wait times for patients, and create a pipeline of qualified medical professionals to serve Americans’ health needs.”

“I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan measure to help hospitals in Central New York and nationwide recruit and retain medical residents,” said Rep. Katko. “Our nation faces a dire physician shortage, and we need to do more to allow teaching hospitals and academic medical centers to train more healthcare professionals.  This measure adds more residency spots to Medicare’s Graduate Medical Education (GME) program to train emerging physicians and ensure communities nationwide have better access to care.”

"If COVID has shown us anything, it's that we need more highly trained doctors," said Rep. Suozzi. "Ensuring there are more opportunities for aspiring doctors to go through residency programs will help our nation provide better care, lower wait times, and increase access to health care."

“Like many critical professions, our nation is facing a shortage of physicians. As our population grows and ages, it’s vital that we do everything we can at the federal level to remove barriers to encourage more individuals to enter the medical profession,” said Rep. Davis. “That’s why I’m proud to team up my colleagues in the House to introduce the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act. Our bipartisan legislation provides teaching hospitals with the tools they need to increase the number of students they can host for their residency training, helping to alleviate the physician shortage.”

To become a practicing doctor in the U.S., medical school graduates must complete a residency program. However, for the past two decades, an artificial cap on the number of residents funded by Medicare – which is the primary source of payment for residents – has limited the expansion of training programs and the number of trainees. 

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States will face a physician shortage of between 42,600 and 121,300 physicians by 2030. As the American population grows older, the demand for physicians and other medical professionals will increase. This demand has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the vital role that physicians and other health care providers play in our nation’s health care infrastructure. The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act would help expand the physician workforce to address the estimated shortage of physicians and serve as an essential component of our efforts to address current and future public health crises, as well as to bolster our nation’s health care infrastructure and help ensure access to high-quality health care for all. The AAMC is committed to working with Representatives Sewell, Katko, Suozzi, and Davis, along with their House colleagues, to enact this critical piece of legislation that will help alleviate the doctor shortage and improve the health of people everywhere,” said David J. Skorton, MD, President and CEO of Association of American Medical Colleges. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the nation’s worsening physician shortage and the critical importance of teaching hospitals and their mission to train medical residents,” said Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth E. Raske.  “This important bill tackles the problem head-on by adding 14,000 Medicare-funded graduate medical education slots. The teaching hospital community thanks Representatives Sewell, Katko, Suozzi and Davis for their leadership on this vital issue.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of having an adequate physician workforce.  The long-standing cap on Medicare-supported graduate medical education positions restricts access to care by narrowing the pipeline of future physicians practicing in the United States,” said Dr. Susan R. Bailey, President of the American Medical Association.  “The AMA is proud to support the bipartisan Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act as the allocation of 14,000 new residency slots will improve access to care regardless of where patients live.”

The Resident Physician Shortage Act of 2021 is available here.