Public Policy

New Bill Hopes to Increase Residency Medicare Slots after Two Previous Bills Failed


 

The new version again seeks to increase Medicare residency slots by 15,000 over five years, while attempting to identify physician shortage specialties and increase the workforce diversity.

Two federal bills introduced in 2013, the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act and the Training Tomorrow’s Doctors Today Act, would have increased the number of Medicare-funded residency slots by 15,000 over five years. The latter bill also would have required each teaching hospital to release annual reports on the costs of training residents and of running specialized services, and it would have tied 2% to 3% of IME funding to quality measures, such as how well an institution trains providers to work in teams and in different settings. (In 2010, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, also known as MedPAC, instead recommended redirecting more than half of Medicare’s IME funding to performance-based incentives.)

After both bills died in the House of Representatives, supporters resurrected some key features and incorporated them into the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2015 (H.R. 2124), reintroduced this spring in both the House and the Senate. The new version again seeks to increase Medicare residency slots by 15,000 over five years, while attempting to identify physician shortage specialties and increase the workforce diversity.

Deborah Powell, MD, dean emerita of the University of Minnesota Medical School and a member of the IOM committee that recommended a significant GME overhaul, says requirements to increase the transparency of actual training costs would be a step in the right direction if implemented appropriately. She is less enthusiastic about tying a small percentage of funding to quality measures without moving to a robust system that ties funding to residency education in a meaningful way. The IOM report concluded that overall reform of the system is needed, she says, “not tweaking at the edges.”

A bold overhaul may be a tough sell, however, and she acknowledges that the committee’s own recommendations have gained little traction so far.

Vikas Parekh, MD, FACP, SFHM, chair of the SHM Academic Hospitalist Committee, says putting 2% or 3% of a hospital’s total Medicare money at risk is more in line with what the agency is doing in other quality improvement programs.

“So far,” he says, “the indications are that that’s enough money for most big academic medical centers to pay attention to it.”

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