Graduate medical education on the chopping block?

Hospitals, physicians urge debt panel to protect Medicare GME funding

Hospital and physician groups this week sent a letter to the so-called debt "supercommittee" urging them to protect Medicare funding for graduate medical education (GME), Modern Physician reports.

Lawmakers have weighed GME pay cuts since the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission suggested that hospitals' teaching costs are less than allotted funding, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports. According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, consolidating mandatory GME federal spending into a teaching hospital grant program would reduce federal spending by about $69 billion over a decade.

The letter—which was signed by 40 medical groups including the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the American Medical Association, and the American Hospital Association—warned that residency program funding cuts would "exacerbate the physician shortage" as more baby boomers become eligible for Medicare and one-third of practicing physicians plan to retire by 2020. According to AAMC, there will be a shortage of 91,500 physicians by 2020 and 130,600 physicians in 2025.

"Medicare's current cap on financial support for GME prevents teaching hospitals from expanding the number of training positions and often prevents new hospitals from establishing teaching programs," the letter stated. "Now is the time for our nation to invest in physician training programs, not reduce them," it said (Zigmond, Modern Physician, 10/3 [subscription required]; Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/3).

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