[August 2, 2017 – Parker, CO] Rocky Vista University (RVU) supports HR 3394, Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2017. This bipartisan bill was introduced on July 25th and reauthorizes the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program, a program that includes the Affordable Care Act and continues through MACRA (SGR repeal bill). This will provide funding for primary care residencies in Teaching Health Centers for the next three years and will also help to expand the program.
The THCGME program, established in 2010 and reauthorized in 2015, has been an overwhelming success. During its first seven years, the THCGME program trained more than 740 primary care physicians in 59 centers in 27 states. Importantly, physicians trained in teaching health center programs are more likely to practice in underserved communities, increasing access to care for the country’s most vulnerable patient populations.
The value of primary care is well documented. In fact, individuals who have a continuous relationship with a primary care physician are more likely to be healthier and use fewer health care resources. It is also well documented that our nation faces a primary care physician workforce shortage. The THCGME program has proven its ability to increase the number of primary care physicians trained in an efficient manner.
This highly successful and impactful program is set to expire on September 30, 2017, unless Congress takes affirmative action to reauthorize and fund the THCGME program. The legislation introduced not only reauthorizes the program, but also provides enhanced funding and a pathway for growth in the number of residents trained. Most of all, the legislation will help build the primary care physician pipeline necessary to reduce costs, improve patient care, and support underserved rural and urban communities.
“The bill provides mandatory funding, which is critical to the continuation of the program since securing funding outside of the annual appropriations process would continue the current law’s funding structure,” said Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH, President and CEO of American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), an organization that represents colleges of osteopathic medicine across the country.
Currently, only about 10% of physicians practice in rural communities, despite a quarter of the population living there. Those who trained at Teaching Health Centers are 82% more likely to practice primary care, 20% more likely to work in rural communities, and 55% more likely to work in underserved areas than their peers who train in traditional Medicare programs.