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Pallone, Vasquez, and Ruiz Introduce Bill to Permanently Authorize and Expand the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program

Apr 11, 2023
Press Release
The Legislation Would Result in the Largest Expansion of the Program in Two Decades & an Estimated 1,060 New Resident Physician Slots

Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) joined Reps. Gabe Vasquez (D-NM) and Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA) to introduce legislation to permanently authorize the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program to support the training of primary care medical and dental residents with a focus on supporting residents in high-need communities.

The Doctors of Community (DOC) Act permanently authorizes the THCGME program and provides annual increases in funding for fiscal years (FY) 2024-2033, from $277 million in FY 2024 to $582 million in FY 2033. This additional funding will allow the program to increase the number of residency slots available each year. Currently, the program is funded at $126.5 million per year.

If enacted, the bill would support community health continuity by bringing a reliable stream of doctors to communities of color, rural communities, and other high-need communities with funding for an additional 48 new THCGME programs in communities across the country. It would also create an estimated 1,060 new resident physician slots, the largest expansion to the program in more than two decades.

“Primary care physicians are the cornerstone of our nation’s health care system,” Pallone said. “Unfortunately, we are facing a shortage of primary care doctors, especially in underserved communities. The DOC Act will help address this shortage and establish a reliable pathway for medical students to pursue their education. It will provide permanent, reliable funding to train primary care physicians for generations to come. I look forward to working Reps. Vasquez and Ruiz to advance this much-needed legislation.”

“New Mexico is facing a major physician shortage, especially in our rural communities, with fifty-three percent of New Mexico's hospitals reporting critical staff shortages. That’s why I am proud to work with Reps. Pallone and Ruiz to introduce The Doctors of Community Act, which provides mandatory funding for the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education program,” said Vasquez. “This bill will invest in healthcare and add the most resident physician slots since 1997 to help address NM-02’s physician shortage where the district needs it most. I just met with Hidalgo Medical Services, a grantee of this program, and I am proud to see that Hidalgo would benefit directly from these investments.”

“Growing up and practicing medicine in a rural, medically underserved community, I have seen firsthand the pain and suffering of patients who lacked access to nearby physicians," said Dr. Ruiz. "That is why for years, I've championed legislation to fund the successful Teaching Health Center Program, which helps mitigate our nation's physician shortage by training doctors directly in underserved communities. The Doctors of Community Act builds on this work by expanding this program and making funding permanent, so that health centers can continue this critical work and further help meet the health care needs of underserved communities across the nation."

The THCGME program supports the training of primary care physicians through annual funding authorized and appropriated by Congress. The program serves vulnerable populations by funding the training of residents in community-based settings, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Clinics, and tribal health centers. The majority of THCGME training sites are located in medically underserved areas, and the majority of patients served are covered by Medicaid. Current funding for the THCGME program is set to expire in September 2023.

“The American Association of Teaching Health Centers is very grateful to Ranking Member Pallone for introducing the DOC Act and showing yet again his strong support for the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education program and the notion that permanence will generate much-needed stability and certainty for this very successful medical residency program,” said Cristine Serrano, Executive Director of the American Association of Teaching Health Centers. “THCs have trained wonderful doctors who have shown a commitment to underserved urban and rural areas and who are providing critical health care access to Americans in many communities that have lacked sufficient physicians and dentists. We need the THCGME program reauthorized by Congress by September 30 and proposals such as the DOC Act will help generate momentum for legislation to extend and expand this bipartisan program for years to come. AATHC looks forward to working with Ranking Member Pallone, Chair McMorris Rodgers, and other Members of Congress as the legislative process goes forward.”

The DOC Act is supported by the American Association of Teaching Health Centers, National Association of Community Health Centers, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, Council of Academic Family Medicine, the American Osteopathic Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society of General Internal Medicine.

Legislative text is available HERE.