Senators Tester, Collins Urge HHS to Swiftly Implement Law to Sustain and Expand Teaching Health Centers

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

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) wrote to the Health Resources and Services Administration, urging the agency to address the growing need for health care services by using the significant funding increase they championed to train physicians in underserved communities. This will help ensure that all Americans, particularly those who live in rural areas, have access to quality health services.

Last month, Senators Tester and Collins secured $126.5 million – double last year’s funding level- for the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program. For the past six years, the THCGME Program has worked to address the growing demand for health care services across the country by training 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. Senators Collins and Tester are the authors of the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act, which is the foundation of the funding reauthorization appropriated last month for the THCGME program.

“[The Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program] brings primary care physicians and dentists to rural and underserved communities that face critical shortages of health care professionals,” Tester and Collins wrote. “The statute appropriates funding at double the prior annual appropriations level and includes new provisions to strengthen and expand the program. Accordingly, we are writing to emphasize the importance of allocating the newly appropriated funds expeditiously and in an amount and fashion that will sustain training at existing Teaching Health Centers (THCs) as directed.”

“We secured a doubling of THCGME funding in order to increase the per-resident allocation for ‘filled positions,’
” the Senators continued. “With this appropriated funding, we have an opportunity to ensure our nation’s teaching health centers have the resources they need to train the next generation of primary care doctors and incentivize them to work in rural and underserved areas.”

Senators Collins and Tester introduced the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act last August. Since then, they have been working to ensure the reauthorization and continued funding of this important program. The first Teaching Health Centers 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.

Click HERE to read the full-text of the letter.