Menendez, Booker Introduce Legislation to Fight for New Jersey’s Doctor Training Slots

Menendez, Booker Introduce Legislation to Fight for New Jersey’s Doctor Training Slots

2,800 More Physicians Needed in New Jersey by 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker introduced legislation in the Senate and the House that will help address New Jersey’s physician shortage. Due to an unfair calculation by federal bureaucrats, some New Jersey medical programs for doctors in training are capped at a lower number of training slots for physician graduate medical education.

This bill modifies an out-of-date cap on graduate medical education slots that has prevented some New Jersey hospitals from being able to take on new doctors-in-training. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Josh Gottheimer (N.J.-5).

“New Jersyans depend on high quality health services provided by qualified physicians – It is unacceptable that outdated calculations prevent more physicians from obtaining the necessary training to join New Jersey’s health workforce,” said Senator Menendez. “Our legislation intends to break down that barrier and allow the expansion of graduate medical education programs in our state to ensure our health workforce remains competitive and meets the growing health care needs.”

“New Jersey’s community hospitals shouldn’t be handcuffed by an antiquated policy set more than 20 years ago,” Booker said. “By making common-sense modifications to the way graduate medical education positions are allocated, our bill will make it easier for certain New Jersey hospitals to expand their physician training programs – a key step in our larger efforts aimed at ensuring we have enough doctors to care for our aging, growing population.”

New Jersey currently suffers from a shortage of physicians, with some estimates calling for an additional 2,500 to 2,800 physicians by 2020 to meet New Jersey’s healthcare needs. According to data from the Association of American Colleges (AAMC), New Jersey has one of the highest rates of practicing physicians over the age of 60, and is 46th in the nation in the percentage of physicians aged 40 or younger. Moreover, New Jersey ranks 37th nationally in medical students as a share of the total population, with 24.4 medical students per 100,000 population, making it difficult to recruit residents when compared with neighboring New York and Pennsylvania.

In 1997, Congress passed the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which capped the number of Medicare-supported graduate medical residency slots at 1996 levels. At that time, some hospitals in New Jersey had graduate residents on rotation at other hospitals, resulting in their cap being set at an artificially low level. For hospitals looking to expand the number of available graduate education slots, a single budgetary report from 1996 could preclude them from obtaining desperately needed training slots.

This bill corrects the arbitrary and outdated cap and makes graduate medical education slots available to hospitals that have been locked out for decades, allowing them to invest in teaching programs that will keep New Jersey’s health workforce competitive.