Jul 25, 2017 / Health Care

McMorris Rodgers, Tsongas, Denham, Valadao, Ruiz, and Kilmer Introduce Legislation to Continue and Expand Teaching Health Center Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 25, 2017) – Today, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA), along with Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA), and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), introduced the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2017 to reauthorize the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program for three years. This legislation will also allow for the expansion of new programs within existing centers and the creation of entirely new teaching health centers while emphasizing the importance of establishing sustainable funding.

“Bringing more physicians to Eastern Washington is one of my top priorities,” said McMorris Rodgers. “Our rural and urban underserved communities struggle to access the medical professionals they need and Teaching Health Center programs like the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic will help create a new generation of rural doctors—trained right here in our community.”

“The benefits of Teaching Health Centers are widespread. They give aspiring primary care physicians – who are so crucial to providing personalized preventative care and ensuring health concerns are caught and treated early – the opportunity to train in a diverse setting,” said Tsongas. “And as I have seen in my own district at exceptional facilities like the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, Teaching Health Centers provide communities with the next generation of physicians for their area.”

“Expanding this program is critical to addressing the shortage of primary and specialty care physicians in rural and medically underserved communities,” said Denham. “This is one practical step toward ensuring we can both train and retain physicians in areas with the greatest need, such as California’s Central Valley.”

“As fewer medical school graduates pursue careers in rural America, Teaching Health Centers provide critical health care services many families rely on,” said Valadao. “By reauthorizing the THC Graduate Medical Education (GME) Program, and prioritizing rural and medically underserved areas, our bill will ensure our most disadvantaged communities, like California’s Central Valley, have access to the primary care services they deserve.”

“Developing pragmatic solutions that address the physician shortage crisis and encourage more bright, young medical students to practice in underserved and rural communities has been a top priority for me and my congressional district,” said Dr. Ruiz. “I have seen first-hand the dire effects of a lack of providers in underserved areas in my district. I am proud to work together in a bipartisan way to introduce the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2017 that addresses the physician shortage and will help support and grow the much-needed next generation of providers in the Coachella Valley and across the nation.”

“Teaching health centers are vital to ensuring that medical professionals can get the training they require to practice in areas where they are needed,” said Kilmer. “I’m proud to be part of a bipartisan effort to keep bringing quality medical care to our rural communities. Folks shouldn’t have to spend hours in the car just to see a doctor.”

NOTE: Currently, the physician-to-population ratio in rural communities is stark. Only about 10% of physicians practice in these areas, even though almost a quarter of the population lives there. Compared to doctors who train in the traditional Medicare program, those trained at Teaching Health Centers are 82% more likely to practice primary care, 20% more likely to work in rural communities, and 55% more likely to work in underserved areas. This legislation will work to meet the needs of rural and underserved communities through access to primary care medical professionals.

Outside support for this legislation is widespread. You can find a list of supporters and their statements here.

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