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Statement on Potential Congressional Cuts to Medicare-Funded Graduate Medical Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 8, 2011

Contact:
Wendy Fernando
Vice President for Communications and Marketing
Phone: 301-968-4174
E-mail: wfernando@aacom.org

Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH
President and CEO
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine 

There is much to applaud in the current congressional discussions aimed at controlling spending and bringing the nation’s deficit under control. Certainly, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) understands the dire fiscal situation our nation is facing and the hard choices that need to be made to return this country to sound fiscal footing.

However, as Congress and the White House continue negotiations on the deficit and the fiscal year 2012 budget, I urge them to ensure that Medicare funding in support of graduate medical education (GME) is sustained. The nation’s medical residency programs currently receive approximately $9.5 billion annually, which is used to fund an insufficient number of residency slots each year.

In a July 7 letter to Congress, AACOM and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) urged policy makers to protect GME and oppose any funding cuts to this vital element of our health care system. Our nation’s health and well-being will depend on their response. If funding for GME were to be cut, residency programs would be unable to continue educating their current number of residents, much less the additional physicians the nation needs and U.S. medical colleges are all working so hard to produce. 

A variety of factors are driving the need for greater numbers of physicians to serve the nation’s public — current and projected physician workforce shortages; 32 million newly insured individuals resulting directly from the Affordable Care Act; an aging population and a concomitant rise in the incidence of chronic disease; and new models of care aimed at providing more accessible, more affordable care to more Americans. 

To meet these challenges, we need more physicians to be trained, not fewer. Several major national organizations have called for large increases in the number of physicians to be graduated in the coming years, and parallel increases in the number of residency slots to accommodate the last stage of their training. See, for examples, the Association of American Medical College’s “Physician Shortages to Worsen Without Increases in Residency Training,” the Council on Graduate Medical Education’s “Enhancing Flexibility in Graduate Medical Education” and the Recommendations of the American Academy of Family Physicians. And AACOM has written several times on related issues. See, for example, the column I wrote last winter. 

In their efforts to control costs and reduce the nation’s growing deficit, will policy makers whittle away at one of the nation’s most important funding sources for future physicians? We are hopeful that the wisdom of our nation’s leaders will prevail and this critical program that supports physician development will be sustained. Continuing to support graduate medical education will minimize future costs. 

U.S. Capitol