TEANECK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There is a doctor shortage in the United States. Federal representatives were expected to introduce legislation Monday that they said will solve the problem.
CBSN New York’s Meg Baker was outside Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, where there are currently only six doctor residency slots available. That arbitrary number was set more than two decades ago and is one of a few reasons lawmakers said a federal law needs to change.
Medical student enrollment has increased across the country, yet New Jersey and other states have a looming shortage of physicians. The problem is residency slots are partially funded by Medicare and those positions were frozen by a federal law that created hiring caps in 1996.
“Our legislation will allow Holy Name to relaunch their residency program without the caps on Medicare-sponsored residents set in the mid-1990s,” Sen. Robert Menendez said. “The bill also compliments a broader effort in the Senate that I have with the ‘Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act.’ That legislation would initiate a nationwide hiring surge of medical residence in America, hospitals, by increasing residency slots by 3,000 a year for five years.”
Congressman Joshua Gottheimer said statistics show when a doctor enters residency at a teaching hospital he or she is likely to stay in that community, which is good for the healthcare system in New Jersey and the economy. However, federal assistance is needed.
“Training a new doctor isn’t cheap, and by the way, it shouldn’t be. We want our medical professionals well trained and ready to take care of our families. [It’s] not a place to cut corners. That’s where, of course, you have the government come and make sure they can help in that process,” Gottheimer said.
Menendez said the state is also in the midst of what he calls a “silver tsunami,” aging adults who will need more care in the coming years, and aging doctors.
“Nationwide, an estimated 40 percent of physicians will retire within the next 10 years and New Jersey has the third-highest percentage of doctors over the age of 60,” Menendez said.
Michael Maron, the CEO of Holy Name Medical Center, said the hospital has 80 percent specialists and 20 percent primary care doctors. He said that should be reversed and he hopes new legislation can help with that.
Lawmakers said 2,500 to 2,800 new physicians will be needed by 2020 to meet New Jersey’s needs.
The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortfall of up to 120,000 physicians nationwide by 2030.