Senate HELP Hearing Examines Health Care Workforce Shortages

May 25, 2021

Last week’s Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security hearing saw broad bipartisan consensus that Congress should address the nation’s health care workforce challenges and physician shortages, especially in primary and rural health care.

Subcommittee members and witnesses discussed efforts to improve GME and address mental health and COVID-19-related burnout among health care professionals, and physicians’ financial disincentives and payment structure issues, among other topics. AAMC President and Chief Executive Officer David J. Skorton testified (attached) about the need to bolster and diversify the physician workforce, expand Medicare support for GME, and improve health care access for underserved communities.

Subcommittee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) expressed support for direct GME payment increases and the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2021—legislation that would increase the number of Medicare-reimbursed residency positions by 14,000 over seven years.

Senator Sanders introduced a bill to expand the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2021 and establish new criteria to allocate at least half of new residency positions to primary care programs. The Addressing the Shortage of Doctors Act would authorize 14,000 new Medicare-supported medical residency positions over seven years and prioritize allocating slots to primary care programs, hospitals in rural areas, and hospitals that serve areas designated as health professional shortage areas, among other provisions promoting the training of doctors.

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