HHS Has $250 Million to Train Primary-Care Physicians

Healthcare reform provides $250 million to train primary-care physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.  Medical schools and teaching hospitals that educate primary-care physicians and allied professionals can apply for $250 million in new grants through the Prevention and Public Health Fund.  According to Health and Human Services (HSS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the grants are 50 percent of a $500 million fund created by healthcare reform legislation. The doctor deficit goes back to the 1980s and 1990s when medical schools capped their enrollments at 16,000 students per year because they believed that managed care would create a physician glut.

With the nation facing a shortage of 66,000 primary-care physicians just 10 years from now, including 7,000 in underserved urban and rural areas, according to HHS, the new funding is welcome news and represents a starting point to resolve the physician shortage.  The money will train approximately 1,700 new primary-care physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners through 2015.  Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) describes the new healthcare bill as a jobs bill because it provides funding to train new healthcare professionals.

The lion’s share of the grants — $168 million – will benefit physicians and be awarded to 105 eligible teaching hospitals and university medical schools.  An additional $32 million will fund 40 programs that train physician assistants.  Another $30 million will fund nurse practitioner training.

Although the 1,700 primary-care physicians this grant money will train is a drop in the bucket – considering that approximately 250,000 active physicians are expected to retire between now and 2020 – it represents a step in the right direction.

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