May 30, 2019 / Health Care

Reps. McMorris Rodgers, Ruiz, Roe, and Torres Small Introduce Legislation to Expand Teaching Health Center Programs, Address Doctor Shortage

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) has joined Representatives Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA), Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN), and Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM) in introducing the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act (H.R. 2815), bipartisan legislation to improve rural communities’ access to physicians. The bill reauthorizes and expands the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program to address the physician shortage facing communities across the country.

“Bringing more physicians to Eastern Washington is one of my top priorities, and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program helps do that,” said McMorris Rodgers. “This legislation will work to meet the needs of rural and underserved communities through access to a new generation of primary care medical professionals. We fought to get this program extended in 2017, and now it’s time to reinvest in a longer extension and increased funding so we can provide certainty for the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic, and THCs around the country, for many years to come.”

“Too many of our friends, family members, and neighbors are forced to suffer without the health care they need due to a shortage of doctors,” said Dr. Ruiz. “As an emergency medicine physician, I have seen firsthand the dire effects of a lack of providers in underserved areas in our local communities. That’s why I’m working in a bipartisan way to introduce the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act, which addresses the physician shortage and helps support and grow the much-needed next generation of providers in the Coachella Valley and across the nation.”

“Our country is facing a significant shortage of providers in the coming years, and it’s clearly time for an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to create as many opportunities as possible to train qualified young physicians to care for our rapidly aging population,” said Dr. Roe. “Teaching health centers – which include federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics and tribal health centers – provide critical care to some of our nation’s most vulnerable and traditionally underserved populations, especially in rural areas like East Tennessee. I am happy to be working across the aisle on an effort to increase graduate medical education funding options for these health centers across the nation to train the next generation of physicians.”

“In southern New Mexico, it is not just about health care affordability, it’s about health care accessibility,” said Rep. Torres Small. “Too often New Mexicans drive hours through the night or across state lines to access basic health care services. By reauthorizing and expanding the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program, we are strengthening the pipeline of medical residents to rural hospitals and increasing health care access for our most rural communities. I urge all of my colleagues in the House to support this bipartisan legislation and deliver better health care access to all our constituents.”

NOTE: The innovative THCGME program funds residency positions at community-based primary care settings, many of which serve rural and underserved populations. Because many medical students go on to serve the communities where they practice medicine, the program has helped address physician shortages in low-income regions of the country.

In the 2018-19 academic year, the THCGME Program supported the training of 728 residents in 56 primary care residency programs across 23 states. Of these graduates,

  • 82 percent remain in primary care practice, compared to 23 percent of traditional GME graduates.
  • 55 percent of practice in underserved communities, compared to 26 percent of traditional GME graduates.
  • 20 percent practice in rural America, compared to 8 percent of traditional GME graduates.

The Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act would address the physician shortage and strengthen the THCGME Program by:

  • Reauthorizing the program (set to expire on September 30, 2019);
  • Increasing funding for existing Teaching Healthy Centers;
  • Providing more than $100 million in new funding to establish new teaching health centers across the country.

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