Strengthen Texas’ Physician Workforce

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating and unprecedented impact on Texas’ physician workforce. Nearly all of Texas’ 60,000 physicians in active medical practice were affected, regardless of medical specialty, practice setting, or practice type. The damaging effects were sudden and unexpected, and have continued through 2020. Texas has not seen this degree of disruption in physician medical practices since World War II.    

Demand for specialists to treat COVID-19 patients in hospital settings hit an all-time high, while patient demand for physicians in ambulatory settings dropped far-below average. The off-and-on suspension of elective surgeries and medical procedures harmed physician practices in the surgical and procedural specialties. These suspensions also wrought havoc on the financial standing of hospitals and other health care facilities. Some physicians lost their jobs, while others suffered pay cuts and mandatory furloughs. In May, TMA’s COVID-19 Impact Survey found that 63% of physicians had salaries reduced by 50% or more. A little more than two out of three Texas physicians (68%) reported a reduction in work hours.   

The pandemic will change the physician workforce in Texas. Economic pressures may convince some physicians to take early retirement or to leave patient care; and hospitals may be forced to close residency programs. With three new medical schools, Texas will need MORE residency positions to maintain the target ratio of 1.1 to 1, in hopes of keeping our medical student graduates in state. 

TMA’s Legislative Recommendations   

  • Stabilize physician practice viability by adopting state policies that restore a healthy physician practice environment, including payment policies that enable physicians to meet costs and stay in business; minimizing physician practice interruptions; and ensuring physicians have strong practice liability protections.  
  • Continue state support for the following critical physician workforce pipeline programs in the state’s 2024-25 budget: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Budget: State Graduate Medical Education (GME) Expansion Grant Program; State Rural Training Track Grant Program; State Physician Education Loan Repayment Program; Statewide Primary Care Preceptorship Program; Family Medicine Residency Program; and Joint Admission Medical Program. Health-Related Institution Bill Patterns Budget: Formula Funding for State Medical Education, and Formula Funding for GME Teaching Costs. 
  • Maintain robust physician workforce data collection and analysis activities to monitor the impact of the pandemic on physician supply and distribution and patient access to medical care.   

TMA’s Messages 

  • Good health is dependent on access to medical care.   
  • Texas physicians have suffered unprecedented interruptions in their medical practices. 
  • Texas leads the nation in population growth, and has chronic physician shortages in many areas of the state.  
  • Texas must grow the state’s GME capacity to retain Texas’ medical graduates.   

 

Last Updated On

December 03, 2020

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