Getty Images

CMS Funds 200 Medical Residency Slots with Health Equity in Mind

CMS’ latest action prioritizes health equity by awarding additional medical residency slots, increasing care access in underserved communities.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has awarded the first 200 of 1,000 medical residency slots to preserve care access in underserved communities, reflecting a commitment to advance health equity.

This funding is a part of a government-wide effort to increase the number of Medicare-supported graduate medical education (GME) positions sparked by an unprecedented healthcare staffing shortage.

Under the fiscal year (FY) 2022 Medicare Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System rule, CMS will provide 1,000 physician residency slots to qualifying hospitals, phasing out 200 residency slots over five years. 

CMS stated that approximately three-quarters of the new positions would be held for primary care and mental health specialties such as obstetrics, gynecology, and psychiatry.

“These graduate medical education residency slot awards will help address access to care challenges and workforce shortages in the highest need areas,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in the announcement. “The majority of the positions are for primary care and mental health specialists, who are the foundation of our health care system.”

Hospitals with training programs in geographic areas showing the greatest need for additional providers, particularly places that are Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), will be prioritized throughout this program.

This initial round of Medicare-funded residency positions awarded was provided to 100 teaching hospitals across 30 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, effective July 1, 2023.

“Prioritizing these awards to areas that need the most support will bolster the workforce while also arming new providers with a unique understanding of the specific needs of these communities,” said Dr. Meena Seshamani, Deputy Administrator and Director for CMS’ Center for Medicare. “This is critical in advancing our goals of providing high-quality care to all people.”

Staffing shortages have become the most prominent issue recently for the healthcare industry, with an April 2022 Health Affairs article noting the nursing sector lost about 100,000 workers in 2021. That amounts to a 40 percent year-over-year drop in staffing levels.  

The growing shortage of healthcare workers has become a threat to patient care access. A separate 2022 survey found that more than half of patients face healthcare access snags because of a staffing shortage.

Patients are worried they won’t be able to access the right kind of care with the right kind of qualified provider. Patients are looking at healthcare organizations to hire more staff to create more confidence in clinical quality and patient safety. 

Mirroring this, a separate survey found that healthcare experts have acknowledged that addressing staffing shortages is essential to expanding patient access to care, with many stating that recruitment and retention are their top priorities.

“The US healthcare system is in a state of peril. Staffing shortages exacerbated by the pandemic are the tip of the spear, causing access concerns when access to care is now more critical than ever,” said Stephanie Kovalick, chief strategy officer at Sage Growth Partners.

“With patients being boarded in the ED for days before being admitted and primary care appointment wait times as long as six months, the decline in the health of Americans will only worsen.”

Next Steps

Dig Deeper on Patient data access

xtelligent Health IT and EHR