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Dust Still Settling On 2016 Election

Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH

By Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH
AACOM President and CEO

Now that the 2016 election season is over, and the new Administration and Congress are transitioning into their new roles, we in the medical education community—like many others across the nation—are evaluating and speculating on the impending impact of what has been a historically contentious and polarizing election.

The highlights of the election include the Republicans gaining control of the White House and maintaining control over both chambers of Congress. On January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump (R) will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, with Governor Mike Pence (R) of Indiana as his Vice President. However, with nearly 4,000 government appointments yet to be made by the Trump administration, it is hard to predict exactly what policy changes will occur, how they will unfold in the next four years, and what their precise impact on the medical education and health care landscapes will be. Despite the wide array of unknowns during this time of transition, there are several key policy priorities which AACOM will continue to strongly work to advance with the new Administration and on Capitol Hill.

With the Republicans at the helm, a repeal of the Affordable Care Act is a given. However, the plan for replacement is still unclear. The incoming Administration has also discussed the possibility of free market reforms to the health care industry, a restructuring of Medicare, and an overhaul of the Department of Education. One area of critical importance to AACOM is potential Medicare reform. A restructuring of Medicare could expand access, but could also mean cuts to Medicare-funded graduate medical education (GME). Any cuts to GME would limit medical student access to training programs, which would serve to widen the physician supply gap. As leaders in the health care and medical education communities, it is incumbent upon us to plan for all possible outcomes—both positive and challenging.

With this new Administration and Congress, it will be imperative for AACOM and our members to inform policymakers on the critical policy issues of importance to osteopathic medical education and ensure that AACOM continues to be an active force in the formulation of national health and higher education policies as osteopathic medical schools continue to grow in number, size, and importance to the U.S. health care and medical education systems.

AACOM strongly supports programs that promote medical education, particularly innovative programs designed to better prepare physicians for quality care of patients and to improve the health of our nation’s communities as well as workforce policies and programs to ensure an adequately-trained physician workforce that meets the heath care needs in the 21st century. AACOM will continue to advocate for the preservation of federal GME funding as it is critical to ensure the stability and continuity of both the nation’s medical residency training programs that produce future physicians and the health care system that provides care to our nation’s citizens. Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act and urging Congress to invest in loan repayment and forgiveness options and exploring fiscally-responsible solutions to lower medical student debt to assist students who graduate with accumulated debt loads, as the nation faces a critical physician workforce shortage, will remain a top priority with the new Congress.

AACOM looks forward to partnering with our nation’s new leaders and policymakers as they make the tough decisions that lay ahead. We will continue to strongly advocate for education and health policies that affect our member institutions, students, and partner organizations, and keep you informed about the changes that impact and are important to you. And we will offer opportunities for you to join our advocacy efforts on the important issues that support our nation’s osteopathic medical education and the health care delivery system.