Rep. Cuellar Works to Expand Healthcare Access in the Rio Grande Valley

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Congressman fights for more physicians in medically underserved areas

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Texas Border Business

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) secured language in the final spending bill that allows teaching hospitals in areas of need to extend their cap-building window to ten years, allowing new physicians to fill residences in rural, under-resourced areas, such as the Rio Grande Valley. The number of physicians per population in the Valley is almost half of the physician-per-patient ratio for the United States, which is 240 doctors per 100,000 people. The Valley only has 124 doctors per 100,000 people.

“Many under-served rural communities in the United States, like the Rio Grande Valley, suffer from a poor distribution of physicians and training programs, making it difficult for patients to see a doctor and receive medical care,” Congressman Cuellar said.

“For this reason, I worked hard to secure language in the final spending bill that allows medical schools and teaching hospitals in areas of greatest need, such as Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, to have additional residency positions. I am committed to ensuring people in the Rio Grande Valley and across the country have access to quality health care. I want to thank DHR Health for their dedication to training the next generation of physicians and commitment to ensuring our community no longer suffers from an inadequate supply of physicians.”

Dr. Forse, Chief Academic Officer, DHR Health said, “Doctors Hospital at Renaissance cannot thank Congressman Cuellar enough for his commitment and efforts to ensure that the Rio Grande Valley and other underserved areas of the nation have the resources and physicians they need.  Dr. Cuellar understands that our nation’s looming physician shortages are a serious problem that increases costs and reduces access to care for all Americans.  We applaud the Congressman’s leadership on this issue, and we look forward to working with him on solving the coming physician shortage crisis our nation faces.”

Cap Flexibility

In 1997, Congress enacted caps on Graduate Medical Education (GME) slots funded by Medicare, resulting in drastic changes to the size, makeup, and distribution of the physician workforce. This cap, which places a limit on the number of residency positions available in hospitals across the country, forces many new physicians out of rural areas to take positions in hospitals that can allow them. Not only does this cap exacerbate the physician shortage, it has further reduced the number of residency positions in medically underserved areas. This crippling shortage has prevented many citizens in rural areas from accessing quality medical care.

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Congressman Cuellar’s language in the final spending bill will expand residency positions in rural and underserved hospitals, allowing new physicians to practice in hospitals with the most dire need. The language will work to reduce the shortages experienced across the country, increase the return on investment by states, local communities, and medical schools, and realign the mal-distribution of physicians in teaching hospitals.

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