Costa Introduces Legislation to Expand Medical Education, Curb Doctor Shortages
FRESNO, CA – In his continued efforts to fight for better access to healthcare for residents of the San Joaquin Valley, Congressman Jim Costa introduced legislation that will provide $200 million dollars in funding to help curb the shortfall of primary care providers in California, particularly in underserved areas where patients have limited access to medical care.
H.R. 5654 – the Expanding Medical Education Act of 2020, will work to establish medical training in areas of high need, with priorities for funding given to institutions, such as UCSF Fresno, that focus on diverse and medically deprived communities. One common obstacle these communities face is a physician shortage due to the lack of medical education access in their areas:
“This bill is a significant investment in medical education and will help UCSF-Fresno strengthen and expand its program to train doctors,” said Costa. “For 40 years, I have supported building a medical school in the Valley. While in the state legislature, I secured the funding for the downtown UCSF-Fresno campus, and now, in Congress, I am working to deliver funding to help this program expand. Growing our own doctors is the only way to confront this medical crisis. I will fight for every dollar to ensure Valley residents have access to the healthcare they deserve.”
The United States is expected to face a shortfall of primary care providers in the next 15 years, with rural and low-income communities expected to feel the brunt of that shortfall. Despite being the fastest growing region in the state, the San Joaquin Valley has the lowest supply of physicians at a ratio of 39 doctors per 100,000 residents, 22% lower than state average.
“Access to healthcare has been a growing crisis in the San Joaquin Valley for many years and will continue to get worse unless we take action to address it,” said Assemblymember Adam Gray. “Our physician to patient ratios falls far below more affluent parts of the state. I have made access to care a priority and we are now seeing real investments at the state level to addressing our shortages. I support Congressman Costa’s efforts to make investments at the federal level.”
Doctor Shortages are known to reduce access to medical care by imposing longer wait times and causing people to travel further to see specialists. Poverty, obesity and poor air quality in the SJV create a disproportionate need for doctors since the area’s 4 million residents suffer from higher rates of asthma, obesity and diabetes compared to the rest of the state.
“The United States is facing a serious shortage of physicians, but the Central Valley faces unique challenges”, said Rep. TJ Cox. “Everyone deserves access to a provider, and we need to be doing more to ensure that we support and invest in our healthcare workforce here. That’s why I am proud to introduce this bill, which will help the Central Valley combat the growing shortage of medical providers. By creating grants to establish schools of medicine or branch campuses in rural and underserved areas, this legislation is a step in the right direction.”
“We have about half as many doctors per person as the Bay Area – and it means people here can’t get the care they need close to home,” said Rep. Harder. “I hear about the lack of access to care at just about every town hall I hold at home. The obvious way to resolve the doctor shortage is to train more doctors – which is why this investment would be so meaningful. It’s time to make the investments in our health care workforce we should have made decades ago.”
UCSF Fresno qualifies for $50 million dollars in funding that can be used for:
- Construction of new schools
- Hiring of faculty
- Recruitment and enrollment of students
- Pipeline programs
“Congressman Costa has been a longtime advocate for increasing access to high quality health care for chronically underserved communities,” said Loren Alving, MD, director, UCSF San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education at UCSF Fresno. “We appreciate and applaud his efforts to address persistent physician shortages by strengthening medical education and physician training in the San Joaquin Valley, which has significant unmet health needs.”