Monday, April 24, 2017

Funding set to end for federal program that trains doctors for rural, medically under-served areas
A program that trains doctors to practice in rural and medically under-served areas is in danger of losing its funding. The Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, "dispenses grants to community health centers to train medical residents," Michael Ollove reports for Stateline. "Under current law, the federal government will stop funding the program, which serves nearly 750 primary care residents in 27 states" on Sept. 30.

The American Association of Teaching Health Centers, a nonprofit advocacy group, said the ACA residency program has been successful, with 55 percent of graduates practicing in under-served areas, "compared to 26 percent of those who graduate from hospital-based residencies," Ollove reports.

"The teaching health centers have received bipartisan support in the past," Ollove notes. "But supporters worry that because the program is new, relatively small, and not as well-known as other federally funded doctor-training programs, it might fall through the federal budgetary cracks. Bipartisan support didn’t protect the program from earlier cuts. In 2010, Congress allocated $230 million over five years, or about $46 million a year. But when it approved a two-year extension in 2015, it reduced funding to about $43 million a year. That reduction was enough to cause some of the teaching health centers to train fewer residents. Some have closed."

Ollove writes, "Supporters also argue that of teaching health centers expose residents to the types of ailments and health disparities, such as higher rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, that they are likely to encounter if they practice primary care in under-served areas."

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