Sanders Looks to Combat Doctor Shortage With Training Funds Hike


June 4, 2021 11:20 am

Sen. Bernie Sanders is using his new perch as head of a key health panel to expand the number of federally supported medical residency positions.

Sanders (I-Vt.) announced Thursday he’ll introduce legislation to add 14,000 Medicare graduate medical education slots over seven years, potentially training thousands of new doctors each year.

“This is a solvable program,” Sanders, who is head of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s health panel, said during a Thursday hearing. “This is the wealthiest country on earth. We can have enough doctors and nurses in the places where we need them.”

Public health groups say the U.S. faces a shortage of at least 54,000 primary care and specialty doctors over the next decade.

Sanders said his legislation would reserve half of the new slots to train new primary care doctors.

David J. Skorton, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges, said his group has asked for 3,000 slots to be added each year to Medicare’s graduate education program. That program, along with others, pays hospitals to train medical school graduates to become doctors.

Increasing Medicare funding for this program could allow hospitals to train more doctors, Skorton said.

A confluence of factors is creating a shortage of health-care providers in the U.S. The 65-and-older population grew by over a third, 13,787,044 people, during the past decade, putting pressure on the U.S. health system. At the same time, 40% of active physicians will reach 65 in the next 10 years, putting many into retirement, according to AAMC data.