Representatives Diana Harshbarger and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) introduced the Rural Physician Workforce Production Act of 2022, which is bipartisan legislation that improves Medicare reimbursements.
The proposed legistation (H.R. 8508) also enhances the current structure of the Medicare-funded graduate medical education (GME) program to bring more medical residents and doctors to rural areas.
The Rural Physician Workforce Production Act:
Lifts the current caps on Medicare reimbursement payments to rural hospitals that cover the cost of taking on residents;
Allows Medicare to reimburse urban hospitals that send residents to train at rural health care facilities during a resident rotation;
Establishes a per-resident payment initiative to ensure rural hospitals have the resources to bring on additional residents.
Doctors train in underserved rural regions
Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger is a member of the House Rural Health Care Coalition, the Republican Doctors Caucus, and the Congressional Telehealth Caucus.
“Having served as a pharmacist in East Tennessee for over 30 years, I understand the unique needs and challenges that face our rural communities,” Harshbarger said. “Rural regions struggle to recruit and retain physicians and other practitioners, resulting in a lack of access for patients and families. My bill will help make rural residency programs more attractive and sustainable as well as strengthen our rural physician pipeline. This is a practical solution to encourage doctors and other health professionals to train in underserved rural regions and keep their lifesaving talents in the areas that need it most.”
As the representative of one of the largest and most rural districts in the country, O’Halleran said he’s seen firsthand just how hard it can be for families to access basic health care, let alone specialist care.
“Studies have shown that doctors are more likely to stay and practice in areas where they studied,” O’Halleran said. “Our bipartisan bill is commonsense policy fix that will incentivize more medical residents to practice and live in rural areas, providing better access to care for hardworking Arizonans that must often travel hundreds of miles to receive the care they need.”
Supporters of the legislation
Sterling N. Ransone, Jr., MD, FAAFP, President, American Academy of Family Physicians:
“The shortage of primary care physicians across the country, particularly in rural areas, is dire. That’s why the AAFP is pleased to endorse the Rural Physician Workforce Production Act, which will take concrete action to support rural residency training and alleviate physician shortages in rural communities. This legislation addresses health inequities by strengthening the physician workforce in communities that desperately need more physicians and would provide much needed federal support to incentivize residents to train in rural areas. This bill is a critical step toward stemming our national physician workforce shortage and ensuring patients have equitable access to timely and comprehensive care.”
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) President and CEO Robert A. Cain, DO:
“Providing healthcare to underserved areas, including rural America, has long been a priority of the osteopathic medical community. It is well understood that residents who train in rural communities are more likely to stay and practice in those same rural communities, and this is especially true for osteopathic physicians, of which 73 percent practice in the state where they train. AACOM thanks Representatives O’Halleran and Harshbarger for introducing this vital legislation that would invest in rural residency training and address one of the biggest factors contributing to rural physician shortages.”
Lynne Jones, Executive Director, Council of Academic Family Medicine:
“The Graduate Medical Education Initiative and its thirty plus state participants are elated that the Rural Workforce Production Act is being introduced in the House of Representatives. Over six years in the making, this legislation is a meaningful step forward in creating opportunity for rural hospitals to actively participate in and receive financial support for training of physicians with intent to practice in rural areas and reduce shortages and inequities in the GME system. We applaud Representative O’Halleran and Representative Harshbarger for taking this step by sponsoring the bill to help assure access to much needed care in rural communities.”
Ernest R. Gelb, DO, FACOFP, president of the American Osteopathic Association:
“The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) strongly supports the Rural Physician Workforce Production Act. As a family physician who cared for patients and ran a training site in rural Pennsylvania, and a veteran of the United State Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, I know first-hand how strengthening the physician pipeline in these communities will improve health outcomes and the overall well-being within these populations.”