New Mexico, like many states, is seeing signs of the looming nationwide physician shortage. All but one county is facing a serious gap between the need for primary care physicians and available local doctors. Experts estimate that more than 1,400 doctors are currently practicing in the state, more than 200 short of what they need, and obstacles like the cost of med school are in the way. Especially with New Mexico’s expansive rural population, it’s a major problem. That’s why U.S. Senator Mark Udall is out to fix it, and offer a nationwide solution at the same time. Along with Senator Martin Heinrich, Udall introduced the Increasing Primary Care Access Act, which aims to improve training programs and hold the medical education system more accountable, all the in name of increasing access to healthcare. The goal of the bill is to equip the education system with the tools to serve the demand for newly trained doctors, including five specific programs:
- Centers of excellence that focus on primary care in med schools
- Incentive programs to encourage med students to choose residencies in primary care
- Reauthorization for the Teacher Health Center program, to create community care centers that can host primary care residents
- Committing graduate medical education funds to areas experiencing primary care provider shortages
- Funding workforce analysis centers to improve residencies in underserved areas.
Meanwhile, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada has joined Udall in introducing another bill, focusing specifically on healthcare access for rural veterans. Meaning there’s still hope before America’s physician shortage gets out of hand.