Doctors’ growth faces Catch-22

Medical schools are preparing to increase graduation rates by some 5,000 doctors per year by 2019 to meet the expected growth in demand generated by the new federal health care law.

But The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, there is a serious Catch-22 in the situation:

The number of federally funded residencies that specialists need to complete their training has been frozen since 1997. The Journal reported that such positions – funded by Medicare – were frozen in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.

Apparently, the government was engaged in budgetary shenanigans even way back then.

Two members of Congress – Rep. Allyson Schwarz, D-Pa., and Aaron Schrock, R-Ill. – were to introduce a bill yesterday to fund another 15,000 residencies per year for the next five years. It would cost about $1 billion per year.

The story said the bill faces an uphill climb because of the sequester and other austerity measures, but Congress should ask one question:

What good are the additional doctors coming out of medical school going to do if they can’t get advanced training?

The answer is obvious – not much good. The U.S. population is growing and aging – the demand for health services is going to go up.

And, let’s face it, a billion dollars is a drop in the bucket when one is talking about health care spending.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.