KLYQ: U.S. Senate Bill Addresses Montana Doctor Shortage
Montana is facing a shortage of doctors. It’s the fourth largest state and our rural landscape requires people to drive hours to visit a physician. In fact, some counties don’t have any physicians and many are considered “medically-underserved,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Association of American Medical Colleges has previously noted that many rural physicians are nearing retirement, with maybe a quarter of them not practicing by the year 2030.
Montana Senator Jon Tester has introduced the “Rural Physician Workforce Production Act” in the Senate to try to get more doctors in rural areas. He said part of the problem is the Medicare-funded graduate medical education (GME) system. His bill would lift the Medicare reimbursement payment for rural hospitals to cover the cost of adding doctors who who completing their residencies. The bill would also reimburse larger urban hospitals who would send resident physicians to train at rural centers during a resident rotation.
Senator Tester said the problem was obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said, “The shortage of doctors in rural America threatens the future of our frontier communities. Folks in every corner of our state deserve access to high-quality care, no matter where they live. This bill works to cut the burdensome red tape that prevents rural hospitals from bringing in more residents, and ensures those facilities have the resources they need to recruit and retain doctors for the long haul.”
Tester’s measure is supported by the Council of Academic Family Medicine, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Rural Health Association and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.