Blog Archive

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Put Up or Shut Up / Residency Shortage
A proposal to create a new medical license was made at the annual Florida Medical Association (FMA) meeting in August 2017.  In order to make a proposal at the FMA a strict procedure must be followed.  A delegate from a county medical association must obtain approval from their local medical society to bring a proposal to the state medical association.  Following strict written guidelines, the delegate is allowed 3.5 minutes to verbally present this proposal to the delegates.  The proposal presented at this year’s meeting had to do with the creation of a license called “Assistant Physician”, similar to the license passed in Missouri.  This license would allow graduate unmatched US doctors, who met all the requirements for application to the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) for residency, to work under the supervision of a licensed physician.  This would permit meaningful work in Healthcare until the unmatched doctor could obtain a medical residency, in lieu of the current residency deficit.
This committee voted that the proposal “not be adopted”.  One of the objections discussed in a prior blog had to do with the belief that a residency shortage did not really exist.  I have since received written correspondence from the CEO of the NRMP stating that there have been 42,000 applications for 32,000 positions.  99% of the positions were filled, leaving 203 unfilled slots mostly in 1-year preliminary surgery, where “Many are dead-end positions that do not lead to further training”.  So there definitely is a residency shortage of about 10,000 slots per year.

The second objection raised against this proposal was from the medical student delegates.  They voted “no” because they felt money should be spent on Graduate Medical Education (GME) for creating more residency slots in Florida, and not money spent on creating a new license.  They felt the Assistant Physician license “would have legislative implications as the FMA’s job is to maintain that the physician stays as the leader of the health care team.  This could be a risk to the public if lesser trained providers are allowed to practice Medicine with MD/DO after their name.”(1)

The objection based upon how best to spend money to fix the residency shortage does not correlate with me.  Residency slots are subsidized by Medicare and Medicaid funding primarily.  States like Florida have created incentive money to hospitals for the creation of new residency slots.  The costs for enacting the AP license in Missouri were fairly minimal and involved primarily administrative costs, as delineated in their proposals.  Had these unmatched doctors been allowed to complete residencies, their applications would have been for traditional medical licenses, instead of the AP license.  So that expense would have occurred anyway.  The administrative costs associated with supervisory physicians would be additional, but fairly nominal in view of the benefits to the unmatched doctors and the underserved patients receiving care.  In summary, the worry about how to best spend money deals essentially with two different levels of government, the Federal level for Medicare/Medicaid, and the State level for licensure costs.  The two do not impact one another.  So money to create licenses would not reduce or impact the creation of new residency slots.

How will any of those medical student delegates feel if they happen to be some of the unfortunate doctors who do not match into a residency after graduation?  They might not be so cavalier with their objections.  What have these students and the FMA actually DONE to remediate this crisis of the residency shortage?  A doctor in my community said that the FMA was a “Go along to get along” organization.  He implied that nothing much gets done of significance.  For that matter, the AMA has not effectively dealt with this issue either, from my stand point.  So my answer is “Put up or shut up”.  If this situation had occurred to any of the FMA or AMA delegates, we would be hearing a different story!

(1)  FMA House of Delegates 2017; Consent Calendar Reference Committee III; Legislation; Aaron Sudbury, MD, Chair.