Every eight seconds another Baby Boomer turns 65. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that by 2025 the US will have 130,000 fewer physicians than it needs. (There are approximately 660,000 doctors in the US now.) Most of the talk in Washington focuses on how we’ll pay for our future medical care, but that ignores the pressing issue of who will provide that care. And while any budget windfall from an economic surge would have immediate impact on our ability to pay, a physician’s training takes nearly a decade. It’s preparation that can’t be rushed or shortened.
Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) have put aside partisanship to propose the beginnings of a solution–the plainly named Training Tomorrow’s Doctors Today Act. The legislation would increase by 15,000 the number of federally funded Graduate Medical Education (GME) slots around the country. GMEs are considered critical for physician training. (The number of federally funded residencies has been frozen since 1997.) Schlock says the proposal will increase “the number of medical school graduates who will receive hands on training in a patient setting to gain the experience needed to become a practicing physician.” In order to become fully accredited physicians, med students must undergo a residency program in a specific specialty that lasts from three to seven years. The program will be financed by Medicare.