CMS investing $1.8B to fund 1,000 new residency slots, the largest increase in 25 years

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is investing $1.8 billion to fund 1,000 new physician residency slots, the largest such increase in 25 years, officials announced Friday.

CMS will target its dollars toward hospitals that serve rural and underserved communities with an eye toward improving health equity. The feds plan to phase-in the additions, adding 200 residency slots annually over the next five years.

Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, passed by Congress in late 2020, has created “tremendous opportunity” to begin addressing inequities in medicine.

“CMS recognizes the importance of encouraging more health professionals to work in rural and underserved areas, and the need to train and retain physicians to improve access to healthcare in these communities,” she said in a Dec. 17 statement.

The feds are establishing policies to distribute the new residency slots through the 2022 Inpatient Prospective Payment System final rule. CMS said it plans to prioritize hospitals with training programs in areas demonstrating the greatest need for physicians. They’ll look to announce the first round of slots by Jan. 31, 2023, which will become effective by July 1 of that year.

Radiologists and lawmakers earlier this year had advocated for much larger numbers. The Resident Physician Shortage Act of 2021, introduced in the House in March, would have added 2,000 slots each year for a total of 14,000 positions by 2029. Advocates had hoped Congress would include the proposal in President Joe Biden’s signature legislation, the Build Back Better Act. But any advancement is now on hold until next year, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., withdrawing his support.

“The language directly addresses the growing physician shortage highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which strained an already overburdened healthcare delivery system,” the American College of Radiology said in a Dec. 9 news update, urging its members to contact their senators to push the resolution past the finish line. “Increasing the number of residency slots would help alleviate some of that burden while securing a robust physician workforce for the challenges ahead.”

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