Tester to Congressional Leadership: Prioritize Funding for Primary Care Physicians in Underserved Communities

Tester’s bill invests in on-the-job training program for primary care residents, increases physician workforce in patient-based community care centers

U.S. Senator Jon Tester is doubling down on his efforts to ensure primary care physicians serving at Teaching Health Centers (THCs) across the country have the support they need to continue on-the-job training before critical funding runs dry on December 11th, 2020.

In a letter to Congressional leadership, Tester and a bipartisan, bicameral group of colleagues are urging the passage of the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act, legislation that reauthorizes and increases funding for the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program.

“THCs play a vital role in training the next generation of primary care physicians, with residents handling an estimated one million patient visits annually in rural and urban communities,” wrote Tester and his colleagues. “Putting aside the economic adversity faced by these community health facilities due to COVID-19, it has been extraordinary difficult for the more than 50 THCs to recruit and operate effectively without the longer term stability our reauthorization bills would provide. We believe THCGME responds to the crisis-level shortage of primary care physicians by delivering doctors to the communities where they are needed most.”

The THCGME program trains residents in new or expanded primary care resident training programs in community-based patient care centers, including in community health centers and rural health clinics. Funding for THCGME has been sporadic, leading to negative impacts on program operations and resident recruitment.

Tester’s bipartisan Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act brings much-needed stability to the THCGME program by:

  • Reauthorizing the THCGME program for five years;
  • Increasing the per-resident funding amount to cover increased residency costs;
  • Adding residents to the existing program; and
  • Providing opportunities for program growth to address physician shortages in areas of need.

Without reauthorization, funding for the THCGME program will expire December 11th, 2020.

Full text of Tester’s letter is available HERE.