Alexander: Gap Between Americans Who Need Health Care and Those Who Provide Care Has Potential to Widen

Posted on May 22, 2018

“Rural areas where 60 million Americans live suffer the greatest impact of the shortage of health care professionals. According to the National Rural Health Association, there are only 39 primary care doctors for every 100,000 people living in rural areas, but there are 53 primary care doctors for every 100,000 people in urban areas.”

 

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 22, 2018 – Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said, “We know that the shortage of health care professionals – which includes doctors, nurses, paramedics, and x-ray technicians – is a problem that has the potential to keep getting worse.”

“First, our country’s population is aging and growing – which is widening the gap between the number of people who need health care and the number of those who provide it,” Alexander said. “And second, at a time when we need more health care professionals, many of the existing health care workforce will reach retirement age.”

“We also know the shortage affects certain populations more than others. Rural areas where 60 million Americans live suffer the greatest impact of the shortage of health care professionals. According to the National Rural Health Association, there are only 39 primary care doctors for every 100,000 people living in rural areas, but there are 53 primary care doctors for every 100,000 people in urban areas. And the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported that 47 rural Tennessee counties, out of 95 total, had no OB-GYN.”

“The Department of Health and Human Services is currently funding three things to help reduce and prevent shortages of health care workers – the Medicare Graduate Medical Education Programs, 70 different health workforce programs and the National Health Service Corps. We need to know if what the federal government currently is doing is effective or if specific improvements should be made? I hope to have a better understanding of how well we are training health care professionals, and what we can do to encourage more people to enter the health care workforce as professionals retire.”

Medicare Graduate Medical Education Programs, which funds resident training for new doctors, is in the jurisdiction of the Senate Finance Committee. The Senate health committee has jurisdiction over about 70 different health workforce programs that provide scholarships and loan repayment for students, faculty, and health care professionals in exchange for working in rural areas. The National Health Service Corps provides loan repayment for primary care doctors who go to work in underserved areas. Most of these doctors choose to work at the 10,000 community health centers across the country.

Alexander’s full prepared remarks are available here

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