July 31, 2020

Cortez Masto Joins Bipartisan Effort to Support Physician Training Programs in Rural Communities

Washington, D.C. – As COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout the nation, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Michael Rounds (R-S.D.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), in calling on the Trump administration to support physician training programs in rural communities to strengthen and maintain a physician workforce for the future, especially in rural areas.

Rural hospitals are facing difficult financial decisions as a result of the pandemic, and may be forced to decrease or eliminate training and residency programs due to the additional costs. In a letter from the bipartisan group of Senators to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the Senators request the administration release approximately $100 million in targeted funding from the Provider Relief Fund established in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to fund rural hospitals that train physicians and commit to maintaining training programs for at least three years.

“Rural hospitals have been significantly impacted by revenue losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and without federal action, we are concerned that some may be forced to discontinue their physician training programs to remain open,” the Senators wrote.

They continued, “We urge you to commit immediate resources from the Provider Relief Fund to rural hospitals that maintain their current residency training programs. This will help rural hospitals currently training residents who are likely to go into rural practice, often near their training site, and who supply a significant portion of the future workforce serving those hospitals. The proposed, targeted payment is not a substitute GME payment, but rather an incentive payment to a rural hospital that commits to maintaining its current training program. The payment would be determined by the number of resident positions; however, it is not a payment for residency education. A rural hospital which serves as the primary location of training of greater than 50% of residents’ time, would receive the bonus payments upon agreeing to maintain its training program(s) for the next three academic years.”

“As you continue to address the financial needs of the provider community, we request that you include support for the physician training pipeline in rural America,” the Senators concluded. “This action will help provide needed care to patients during this emergency, and help maintain a physician workforce for the future.”

The full text of the letter can be found here.