MGMA offers solutions to Senate Health Committee.
Decreasing burnout and increasing the number of physicians could alleviate health care workforce shortages around the country.
The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) suggested solutions for the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) to consider for a growing national problem. On Feb. 16, the HELP Committee held a hearing on “Examining Health Care Workforce Shortages: Where Do We Go From Here?”
“We simply do not have in our nation enough doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, dentist, dental hygienist, pharmacists, mental health providers, among other medical health professions,” HELP Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) said.
MGMA agreed in a letter sent to the HELP Committee by Anders Gilberg, association senior vice president for government affairs.
The first way to get more physicians and support staff is to stop the current ones from leaving their jobs due to overly burdensome work conditions, according to MGMA. While burnout is a multifaceted problem, there are at least four legislative solutions that could help.
Medicare reimbursement for physicians continues to be a problem. It has not kept up with inflation and 92% of MGMA members reporting it did not cover costs of care in 2022. That leads to real-world consequences – in one example, cutting two or three staff members at a medical facility where workers already are spread thin.
The HELP Committee should support the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act if that bill is reintroduced into the current Congress. The prior authorization process takes time and staff effort that could go toward patient care. Although it did not pass in the last Congress, the reform legislation had widespread, bipartisan support.
Telehealth rules changed for the COVID-19 pandemic and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 extended flexibilities through Dec. 31, 2024. Lawmakers should consider making permanent changes such as removing geographic originating site restrictions, allowing audio-only services, and reimbursing telehealth visits at appropriate rates.
Congress should incentivize physicians to join alternative payment models, with new physician-led models to allow for all specialties to participate in value-based care arrangements.
The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over the Medicare funding for the Graduate Medical Education Program (GME). But with a physician shortage projected in coming years, the HELP Committee should be aware it.
Federal law has added Medicare-funded GME slots in 2021 and 2023. The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2021 would have added 14,000 new Medicare GME slots over seven years, with updated distribution of those slots. That legislation could be reintroduced in this Congress.
“MGMA is grateful for your leadership in addressing the health care workforce shortage,” Gilberg’s letter said. “Reinforcing the medical training programs in this letter would help to alleviate the physician shortage, while passing the legislation discussed above would help prevent burnout and improve medical groups’ ability to offer high-quality care.”
In its hearing, the HELP Committee heard from James Herbert, PhD, president of the University of New England; James E.K. Hildreth Sr., PhD, MD, president and CEO of Meharry Medical College; Sarah Szanton, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing; Leonardo Seoane, MD, FACP, chief academic officer for Ochsner Health; and Douglas Staiger, PhD, professor at Dartmouth College. Their testimony is available online.
The HELP Committee is scheduled to reconvene March 23 for another hearing, “Taxpayers Paid Billions For It: So Why Would Moderna Consider Quadrupling the Price of the COVID Vaccine?”