More doctors are desperately needed in rural America, can proposed law help provide a lure?

Published 9:04 am Tuesday, February 5, 2019

One of Mississippi’s U.S. senators is pushing federal legislation to lure the next generation of doctors to rural areas of the Mississippi, and the rest of the country.

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., is a co-sponsor of the Rural Physician Workforce Production Act introduced by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., to expand the Graduate Medical Education program to improve the recruitment and retention of physicians serving in rural and underserved communities.

“The hardships faced by hospitals in rural communities continue to grow in Mississippi and other rural states. This measure is a sensible reform that can help rural hospitals attract physicians,” Hyde-Smith said. “I will work with Senator Gardner and my colleagues in the Senate to advance this legislation, which has the potential to have long-term benefits for rural America.”

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The legislation would encourage the expansion or creation of new rural training track programs that encourage more doctors to perform their residencies in rural areas. It would establish a national per resident payment amount in order to make accepting residents a financially viable option for rural hospitals.

Under the current GME program, the law restricts urban and rural hospital partnerships from expanding rural residency programs, which have proven to be beneficial in drawing physicians to rural areas. The Health Resources and Service Administration indicates that just 57 percent of Americans live in a geographic region where primary care needs are met.