The Government Accountability Office this week released a report on the potential benefits and challenges of expanding the Medicare Graduate Medical Education Program to include graduate training for nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Based on interviews with officials from nine professional associations with knowledge of NP, PA and physician graduate training, expanding the program might provide more reliable funding for training NPs and PAs and an opportunity to pay preceptors as an incentive to supervise students, GAO said. Challenges to expanding the program include differences in training requirements between physicians, NPs and PAs, and the potential to divert resources from physician residencies unless overall funding were increased, the groups said. GAO said available estimates on the cost of completing an NP or PA graduate school program are limited. Members of Congress have questioned whether expanding the scope of the Medicare GME program to include NPs and PAs could help mitigate the effects of a physician shortage. Congress requested the report last year.

Strengthening the health care workforce, including supporting state efforts to expand scope of practice laws that allow non-physicians to practice at the top of their licenses, is a top priority for the AHA. However, since 1998 the number of Medicare-funded residency positions has been frozen at 1996 levels. That’s why the AHA supports the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019 (S. 348/H.R. 1763), a bill that would add 15,000 Medicare-funded residency positions over five years to alleviate physician shortages that threaten patients' access to care.

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