Senators Collins and Tester Introduce Legislation to Address Doctor Shortages and Train Next Generation of Physicians

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act in response to the severe shortage of physicians that has reached crisis levels in a growing number of communities across the United States. Their bill would address this issue by reauthorizing and strengthening the successful Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program, which trains physicians in underserved, community-based settings.

“This legislation would extend an important program to address the shortage of primary care doctors, which is especially critical in rural and underserved communities that are often those hardest hit by the opioid epidemic,” said Senator Collins. “I urge all of my colleagues to support this important legislation to help train the next generation of physicians and ensure all Americans have access to quality health services.”

“Doctor shortages disproportionately impact rural communities and rural families,” Senator Tester said. “By getting more doctors into our rural hospitals and clinics we can provide a boost to rural America and ensure that folks living in in small towns aren’t forced to endure dangerously long distances to see a doctor.”

"The reauthorization and expansion of the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program is a critical step in providing healthcare to our citizens in rural areas, and I commend Senators Collins and Tester for their bipartisan leadership,” said Jane Carreiro, DO, Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, University of New England. “It is well known that physicians, dentists, and other healthcare providers practice where they are trained. Providing training opportunities in underserved communities through the THCGME Program is an effective way to assure that people living in rural Maine and the millions of others living in underserved communities across America have access to the healthcare they need."

By 2025, the United States is estimated to need more than 100,000 new physicians to meet the growing demand for health care services across the country. For the past six years the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program has worked to fill this gap. The program helps to train medical residents in community-based settings, including low-income, underserved rural and urban neighborhoods. Since 2011, the Penobscot Community Health Care Center has trained 31 residents and served more than 15,000 dental patients in Bangor, Maine. Medical education residents who train at teaching health centers are significantly more likely to remain in rural or underserved communities.

The Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act would reauthorize the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program for three years. It would also allow the expansion of new programs within existing teaching health centers as well as the creation of new centers to meet the growing need for community health services.

The bill has gained support from numerous physician and medical education associations, including:
The American Association of Teaching Health Centers;

  • The American Academy of Family Physicians;
  • The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine;
  • The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists;
  • The American Osteopathic Association;
  • The Council of Academic Family Medicine; and
  • The National Association of Community Health Centers

Senators Collins and Tester’s legislation was cosponsored by Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and John Boozman (R-AR).