Tester Letter Urges Biden Administration to Address Health Care Provider Shortages in Rural Communities

Senator’s letter to CMS raises concern over lack of residency placement slots granted to rural areas;

Tester: “The agency must address this imbalance before the next allocation”

Continuing his efforts to address the shortage of medical professionals in rural America, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today sent a letter to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) pressing the agency to address the imbalance of residency slots awarded to rural and underserved communities.

“As a third-generation Montana farmer, I know firsthand how difficult it can be for folks in rural America to access high quality health care,” said Tester. “That’s why it is critical our rural health facilities receive the resources they need to recruit and retain doctors for the long haul. The Administration must address this residency placement imbalance before their next allocation, and I’ll continue fighting to ensure Montanans in every corner of our state have access to the medical care they need.”

In his letter, Tester raised the alarm after fewer than ten residency slots were allocated to rural areas as part of the initial allotment, and called on CMS to address this imbalance before the next allocation:

“I write today to stress the importance of addressing physician shortages in rural communities and express my concerns about CMS’s recent allotment of new residency slots. My family still farms in a rural, Montana community and I know first-hand how hard it can be to access health care. While our rural health facilities do the best they can to attract physicians, they face an enormous challenge to stay fully staffed. That’s why I am deeply disappointed to learn that of the first 200 residency slots that CMS awarded as part of a new initiative to implement 1,000 new residencies, less than ten went to rural areas. The agency must address this imbalance before the next allocation.”

Tester also emphasized that if the imbalance was caused by a lack of rural applicants, it is incumbent on the agency to pursue additional and aggressive outreach to rural communities to support prospective applicants:

“I understand the distribution formula for these awards allots 70 percent of the resident slots to hospitals located in States with resident-to-population ratios in the lowest 25 percent, yet so few placements were made in areas that can truly be deemed as underserved. If the cause of this imbalance is lack of rural applicants, the agency should consider additional outreach and innovative ways to support ideal applicants.  Rural residents deserve access to quality health care, and residency programs play a critical role in developing the future health care workforce.”

Tester has been a consistent voice for bolstering rural health care access. In February, Tester re-introduced his bipartisan Rural Physician Workforce Production Act with Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to incentivize young physicians to build their careers in rural hospitals, and ensure those facilities have the resources they need to recruit and retain doctors for the long haul. You can read the Senator’s full letter HERE.


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