FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                  CONTACT: Matt House

February 29, 2012                                                                                                      (202) 224-7433


To Combat Upstate Doctor Shortage, Schumer Introduces Legislation To Increase Physician-Training Residency Slots At NY Hospitals – Also Pushes To Extend Plan To Relieve Doctors’ Medical School Loans If They Serve In Rural Parts of NY, Where Shortage Is Most Severe

New Report Shows Aging Physician Population With Many Set To Retire In Next Few Years — 41% Of Doctors Are Over 55 in WNY, 46% of Docs in Southern Tier, 44% of Docs In North Country, 44% Of Doctors In Capital Region

Schumer: In Upstate NY, We Have To Make Sure The Doctor Is IN

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he has introduced legislation to curb the growing physician shortage epidemic in Upstate New York. Schumer’s legislation would increase the number of Medicare-supported physician training residency slots by 15,000 over the next few years, placing a special emphasis on giving slots to hospitals that serve rural areas that are experiencing physician shortages. The “Resident Physician Shortage Act” would also prioritize placing physicians in hospitals that train physicians in community health centers or outpatient departments, two of the most popular places to receive healthcare in Upstate New York. Schumer’s bill comes as the number of physician retirements is increasing each year, as the doctor population ages. According to the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS), 2,300 physicians retired or left New York hospitals in 2010, a 44% increase over the number of retiring physicians from the previous year. To combat this growing trend, Schumer hopes to bring more physicians to Upstate New York for their training, as many choose to stay and practice in the same area upon completing their residency. He also announced his push to expand a program that rewards doctors who serve in rural areas where shortages are most severe by helping to pay their medical school loans.


“Our top-notch corps of doctors throughout New York has served upstate patients for decades, and many are approaching the end of their careers,” said Schumer. “In certain parts of our state, we’re already experiencing severe doctor shortages that are putting patient care at risk. Emergency rooms are missing doctors with key expertise for hours at a time, community health centers don’t always have the medical staff they need, and our rural communities end up paying the price. We need to bring more young doctors to the Empire State to complete their residency, and reward those who choose to serve in New York’s rural areas by helping them with their crushing loan burden. We need to reverse this growing trend that’s poised to get worse in the next few years, and we need to do it quickly.”


Schumer’s legislation, the “Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act” (S. 1627)  introduced with Senators Bill Nelson (FL), Bob Casey (PA) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), seeks to boost the number of physicians that complete their residency in areas, like Upstate New York, that are experiencing doctor shortages. Medicare provides funding for hospitals to train a specific number of residents at a given time. The legislation would allow Medicare to fund an additional 3,000 slots each year for five years, from 2013 to 2017, half of which must be placed in hospitals serving areas that are experiencing a shortage of physicians. Hospitals in states that emphasize training in community health centers, community-based settings, or hospital outpatient departments would receive preference when applying for additional support to host physician residents. Schumer today noted that New York’s current and looming physician shortage problem combined with its focus on community health center-based patient care position the state well to receive many of the slots the legislation would create.


The Schumer bill will enhance America’s health care infrastructure by expanding the number of Medicare-supported physician residency training positions by 15%, or roughly 15,000. In 1997, the Balanced Budget Act froze the number of residents that a hospital could claim Medicare payment for, based on the number of residents that each hospital trained in 1996. Between 1980 and 2005, the nation’s population grew by 70 million people—a 31 percent increase. By 2030, as baby boomers age, the number of Americans over age 65 will double from 35 million to 71 million. These changes will significantly increase the demand for physicians’ services.


Today, Schumer announced that he would make protecting full funding for the National Health Service Corps a major priority in the next several years, as the doctor shortage in parts of New York is expected to worsen. This program, operated by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) at the Department of Health and Human Services, helps to recruit health care providers such as doctors, nurses and dentists to underserved communities in Upstate New York and throughout the country. The National Health Service Corps brings health experts of all stripes to rural areas by offering scholarships to current medical students, competitive pay to doctors willing to move their practice to underserved areas, and loan repayment assistance for doctors who work in communities suffering from a lack of physicians.


The National Health Service Corps has proven successful in bringing qualified physicians, dentists, and nurses to underserved areas for 35 years. Currently, over 4,600 NHSC clinicians serve in rural and urban communities nationwide, serving 5 million people. However, the program has been chronically underfunded. In fact, 80 percent of applicants must be turned away each year. Schumer helped secure $300 million for the program as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the President’s budget for the coming fiscal year calls for that continued amount. Member of the House of representatives have proposed changing the funding from mandatory to discretionary, opening the account up to steep cuts that could keep doctors out of rural and underserved hospitals. Schumer today noted that steady support for the National Health Services Corps will help New York tackle the physician shortage that is expected to get worse in coming years.


As the physician population ages, many doctors are nearing retirement age. Here is how the numbers break down across the state:


  • In the Capital Region, the average doctor age is 54; 29% are over 55 and another 15% are over 65
  • In Central New York, the average doctor age is 52; 27% are over 55 and another 13% are over 65
  • In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, the average doctor age is 51; 24% are over 55 and another 13% are over 65
  • In the Hudson Valley, the average doctor age is 53; 27% are over 55 and 18% are over 65
  • In Western New York, the average doctor age is 53; 26% are over 55 and 15% are over 65
  • In the Southern Tier, the average doctor age is 54; 30% are over 55 and 16% are over 65
  • In the North Country, the average doctor age is 54; 29% are over 55 and 15% are over 65


According to the Healthcare Association of New York State, nearly every part of the state has been affected by the growing physician shortage problem over the last several years. According to a 2011 report that measured changes in 109 New York hospitals from 2010 to 2011:


6 Counties saw a decline in the number of primary care physicians

  • Chemung, Chenango, Greene, Herkimer, Seneca, Ulster


9 Counties saw a decline in the number of internal medicine specialists

  • Cattaraugus, Steuben, Onondaga, Franklin, Ulster, Columbia, Nassau, New York, Richmond


19 Counties saw a decline in the number of surgical sub-specialists

  • Chautauqua, Genesee, Wyoming, Steuben, Chemung, Cayuga, Oswego, Onondaga, Oneida, St. Lawrence, Fulton, Schenectady, Albany, Sullivan, Orange, Rockland, Putnam, Queens, Nassau


19 Counties saw a decline in the number of non-primary care physicians

  • Chautauqua, Wyoming, Niagara, Genesee, Livingston, Allegany, Wayne, Oswego, Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Delaware, Sullivan, Herkimer, Greene, Essex, Washington, Columbia, Richmond


11 counties have a physician population with more than 20% over the age of 65

  • Orleans, Livingston, Steuben, Schuyler, Chenango, Delaware, Sullivan, Herkimer, Fulton, Greene, Columbia


The full HANYS report can be found here.

Bazzo 02/29/12

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