Tester, Collins Secure Funding to Address Rural Doctor Shortages

Senators Extend Funding For Successful Physician Training Program

(U.S. Senate) – Following a bipartisan effort led by Senators Jon Tester and Susan Collins (R-ME), the government funding bill will extend and provide $126.5 million for each of fiscal years 2018 and 2019 for the successful Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program, which trains physicians in underserved, community-based settings.

“Our rural communities are hit hard by doctor shortages,” said Senator Tester. “No one should be forced to travel hundreds of miles to get a check-up. By getting more doctors training in our community health centers we can ensure folks in rural Montana have access to care.”

“Over the next decade, the severe shortage of primary care doctors could reach crisis levels in a growing number of rural and underserved communities in Maine and across our country. Alarmingly, these communities are often those hardest hit by the opioid epidemic,” said Senator Collins. “The extension of this critical program will help prepare the next generation of physicians and ensure that all Americans have access to the health care they need.”

“In the midst of a primary care crisis, the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program has demonstrated that addressing the shortage of primary care physicians, especially for traditionally underserved rural and urban areas, is not only essential but also achievable,” said Neil S. Calman, MD, President of the American Association of Teaching Health Centers. “This investment in training the primary care workforce improves access to health care for some of the most vulnerable populations. Teaching Health Centers across the country applaud the leadership of our Congressional representatives, especially Senators Susan Collins and Jon Tester, to preserve and expand this essential funding program.

Last August, Senators Tester and Collins introduced the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act. Since then, they have been working to ensure the reauthorization and continued funding of this important program. The first Teaching Health Center opened in 2011, and Senator Collins was present at the opening for the Penobscot Community Health Center in Bangor, Maine, which houses one of the original Teaching Health Centers. RiverStone Health in Billings, Montana, was also one of the original 11 Teaching Health Centers and is nationally recognized for its high-quality resident training and patient care.

By 2025, the United States is estimated to need more than 100,000 new physicians to meet the growing demand for health care services across the country. For the past six years, the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program has worked to fill this gap. The program trains medical residents in community-based settings, including low-income, underserved rural and urban neighborhoods. Medical education residents who train at teaching health centers are significantly more likely to remain in rural or underserved communities.