Texas has a growing need for physicians and other health care professionals to keep pace with our rapid population growth. A shortage of health care professionals is eroding the state's health care systems. Patients are finding it harder to get the health care they need, when they need it.
In 2007, Texas ranked 43rd out of 50 states with 157 practicing physicians per 100,000 population - the same number it had in 2000. At the same time, Texas leads the nation in overall population growth. The state cannot afford to let its physician and nursing workforce lag behind population growth. Our aging population will demand more services, and a large number of practicing physicians will soon reach retirement age. We must find other ways to train or recruit even more physicians over the next several years.
Unfortunately, the federal government has adopted a diminished role in addressing the country's physician workforce needs. Medicare, which traditionally has been the largest source of graduate medical education (GME) funding, capped the number of GME slots in 1996. With 6,386 GME slots, Texas has fewer than New York (15,084), California (8,924), or Pennsylvania (6,828). This decision created a shortage of physician training positions. It virtually guarantees some medical students will be forced to leave the state upon graduation. Given the strong relationship between location of GME training and entrance into practice, those leaving likely will never return to Texas.
Texas nursing programs also continue to turn away qualified applicants each year because they do not have enough faculty to teach additional students. Hospital-based nurses are a critical part of the health care delivery team for the sickest of patients.
Texas also is experiencing shortages of other health care professionals, mental health professionals, and practitioners in some allied health fields. Each plays a key role as part of the health care team.
Medicine's 2009 Agenda
- Remove the caps on Medicare GME funding to allow for needed growth in the number of resident physicians being trained.
- Increase Medicare GME base-level funding for Texas teaching hospitals so it is proportionate to other states.
- Congress must help stop the erosion of the health care infrastructure by funding programs that help train health care professionals.
- Texas needs more GME slots to train the number of physicians required to care for our rapidly growing population and reverse our overdependence on other states and counties.
- The lack of adequate GME funding jeopardizes Texas' economic future.
2009 Federal Legislative Issue Briefs
U.S. Congressional main page