Study: Imbalance in GME fund distribution

Researchers identified an imbalance in how Medicare allocates its $10 billion a year for graduate medical education (GME)--distribution that's crucial considering most medical residents practice near where they train.

A George Washington University (GWU) study published this week in HealthAffairs found that New York state received 20 percent, or $2 billion, of all Medicare's graduate medical education fund, while 29 other states got less than 1 percent. Kaiser Health News reports that Pennsylvania, Michigan, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut each received more than $71 in funding per resident, as compared to $14 per resident in Florida, $11.50 per resident in Texas, and Montana, which only gets $1.94 per resident.

Mississippi, the state with the lowest doctors-to-patients ratio in the country, received just $22 million, according to the article.

Lead author Fitzhugh Mullan, a professor of medicine and health policy at GWU, said imbalances such as this can drastically effect healthcare, and attributed the sharp contrast in distribution to an outdated formula that hasn't accounted for population growth.

"Due to the rigid formula that governs the GME system, a disproportionate share of this federal investment in the physician workforce goes to certain states mostly in the Northeast," he told KHN. "Unless the GME payment system is reformed, the skewed payments will continue to promote an imbalance in physician availability across the country."

Funding imbalances aren't the only struggles for Medicare-funded residency training programs, especially in the face of more demand and less funding for training doctors. Without more Medicare-supported physician training residency slots, not all medical school graduates will be able to complete their training and begin practicing medicine, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- check out the Kaiser Health News article