WASHINGTON DC (January 23, 2020) — In response to an inquiry from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles "Chuck" Grassley, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has highlighted that reforms to federal graduate medical education (GME) program funding-streams could improve stewardship of tax-payer dollars as well as address long-term health-care professional shortages.
“Administrator [Seema] Verma’s response provides some important foundation to what clearly needs to be legislative reforms. The fact that rural areas, like my home state of Iowa, are facing doctor and specialist shortages can and should be a challenge addressed through all federal GME payment programs. We can’t just keep dumping federal funds into programs that may not be addressing the needs of our rural communities,” Sen Grassley said. “I plan to explore options that protect tax-payer dollars and target medical-resident training to best serve patients.”
Sen Grassley, in an October 2019 letter, raised a series of questions about whether Medicare’s GME program, which doles out close to $15 billion annually to incentivize the training of new physicians, is effectively and efficiently achieving its goals. Citing reports from both governmental entities and outside analysts, Sen Grassley’s letter raised concerns that the program as currently implemented could lead to wasteful and duplicative payments to hospitals and questioned whether the program is addressing doctor-shortages in specific geographic regions and medical specialties.
In a response last week, CMS Administrator Seema Verma provided payment data relating to the GME program, outlined steps taken by CMS to ensure the integrity of the GME program and highlighted reforms proposed in the President’s FY2020 budget that the Administration believes could ameliorate the doctor shortage concerns. Ultimately, Verma noted that any significant changes to the program would require legislative action in Congress.