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AACOM President Decries Proposed 50 Percent Cut in GME

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 2, 2010

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

Statement on the Report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform  

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

On December 1, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform released its final report, entitled "The Moment of Truth," with recommendations for reducing the nation’s deficit.  Established this year by Presidential Executive Order, the bipartisan Commission has worked for the past several months to develop recommendations aimed at improving the nation’s current fiscal situation and achieving long-term fiscal sustainability. Specifically, the Commission was charged with proposing recommendations designed to balance the budget, excluding interest payments on the debt, by 2015.  The Commission’s final report, which must be approved by at least 14 of the Commission's 18 members, has a vote scheduled on December 3, 2010.  If the final report is approved by this majority, it will go before Congress for consideration.    

There is much to applaud in the Commission’s report in developing a bipartisan deficit-reduction plan. However, given recent health care supply and demand projections, AACOM has serious concerns with the Commission’s recommendation to severely cut the graduate medical education funding that Medicare provides to hospitals with teaching programs for physician residents. These programs currently receive approximately $9.5 billion annually, which is used to fund an increasingly insufficient number of residency slots each year. The Commission recommends cutting around 50 percent of this funding—an extraordinarily large proportion—to the tune of $60 billion over 10 years. Cutting funding to graduate medical education programs would mean reducing the number of future physicians, the last thing this nation needs.

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 groups 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.

AACOM is ready and willing to work with the Commission and others as they continue to find common ground on reducing our nation’s deficit.  Furthermore, we urge policy makers to heed the President’s own clarion call to expand the nation’s access to health care, and to find fiscally responsible ways to increase funding for graduate medical education, rather than stymieing this vital element in our health care system.