Editorial: Heller sponsoring bills to address doctor shortage

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller has joined with several other U.S. senators to introduce bills to address the looming shortage of doctors in the coming decade, particularly in rural areas.

According to a study released in March by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the United States is facing a shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 physicians by 2030, because the number of new physicians is not keeping pace with the demands of a growing and aging population. Though the population is expected to grow by 12 percent by 2030, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is expected to increase by 55 percent and the number of people aged 75 and older should grow by 73 percent.

One of the bills being co-sponsored by Heller is the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act. There is a similarly named bill pending in the House.

In a press release Heller said this bill would increase the number of Medicare-supported hospital residency positions by 15,000 to address the coming shortage of doctors and to try to keep new graduates from Nevada’s medical schools in Nevada and rural Nevada in particular.

“While the number of medical school graduates from Nevada’s universities continues to rise, the state does not currently have enough residency positions to keep pace with those graduates in Nevada,” said Heller. “The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act increases the number of hospital residency positions available to address the doctor shortage, particularly in our rural communities, and improve the quality of care patients receive.”

According to AAMC data from 2014, Nevada ranked 47th among the states in the ratio of doctors to population. Nevada had 197.4 doctors per 100,000 population compared to 265.5 nationally.

According to a news account in the Las Vegas newspaper this past November, the number of doctors per capita in rural Nevada actually declined by nearly 10 percent between 2004 and 2014.

“Those problems are aggravated in rural areas that have always struggled to recruit and retain or keep those types of professionals in their facilities and their communities,” John Packham, director of health policy research in the state’s rural health office, was quoted as saying.

The other bill being pushed by Heller is dubbed the Advancing Medical Resident Training in Community Hospitals Act. The is intended to make it easier for hospitals to start full-time residency programs by fixing a flaw in current law that prevents hospitals that have previously accepted part-time medical residents from establishing their own full-time, Medicare-supported residency programs.

“The Advancing Medical Resident Training in Community Hospitals Act aims to address the physician shortage in Nevada’s rural communities by giving community hospitals more flexibility to rotate residents,” Heller sad. “By making it easier for Nevada’s hospitals to train the next generation of physicians, our bill will increase access to care for Nevadans living in these communities.”

Though there will be a price tag on these bills, the added health care availability is well worth it.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

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15 comments on “Editorial: Heller sponsoring bills to address doctor shortage

  1. Rincon says:

    There’s been a shortage of doctors for decades at least. Your dog can usually be seen within 24 hours, usually less, but in my experience, an appointment with an MD takes several days to several weeks depending on the kind of doctor. People frequently suffer unnecessarily while waiting to be seen. For example, a friend of mine recently suffered complications requiring radiation (which failed and now it’s surgery) from untreated hyperthyroidism because an endocrinologist wasn’t available for 5 weeks. The GP who diagnosed it refused to treat it. Turns out, the treatment for the original disease that my friend received was identical to the treatment used for hyperthyroid cats. The difference is that the cats are generally treated the day they’re diagnosed.

  2. Bruce Feher says:

    Fewer malpractice suits equal more Doctors!

  3. deleted says:

    Fewer bad acts by doctors equal healthier patients and fewer malpractice actions which lead to….more doctors?

    Seems like the best solution is for doctors to have repercussions for their bad acts, rather than limiting the repercussions to doctors for committing bad acts.

  4. Steve says:

    Funny, the lawyer field is bloated with so many mouthpieces they actually have to lower their fee’s
    (see Paul Powell, the more lawyer less fee lawyer) And there are son many Bernstein’s now it’s hard to tell one from the other!

    Might ambulance chasers be having an effect on how many people are willing to put up with all the trouble it takes to become a doctor and all the paperwork it takes to cover their ass’s, now?

  5. Rincon says:

    Fewer malpractice suits equal more doctors? I see no shortage of students applying to medical schools. Lack of medical schools = lack of doctors is a much more rational explanation, since our schools are at 100% capacity.

  6. Barbara says:

    Say it ain’t so Thomas. Advocating more government regulation to fix a supply shortage. When has that ever, ever worked?

    This legislation is nothing more than Heller shoring up rural support while responding the big medicine lobbyist to get campaign donations. If the good Senator was interested in in creasing the supply of doctors how about these measures:

    1. Tort reform – end the malpractice boondoggle
    2. End the AMA monopoly on licensing and restrictions on for profit hospitals
    3. Expand who can deliver health care to include physician assistants, etc
    4. Repeal HIPPA onerous regulations that grew out of Hillarycare.
    5. Allow speciality hospitals without having to obtain burdomsome “need” certifications on top of other regulatory mandates.
    6. Expand telemedicine and other innovations which are now prohibited.

    I could go on, and on, and on. We have not had a free market health care system since the 1940s. We really don’t understand how much government regulates in this area or how good it could really be if government would get out of they way.

  7. It is government regulations that caused the problem, and they aren’t going away. So this better than nothing.

  8. Barbara says:

    And the frog just sits there as the water around him begins to boil. Still love ya.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Government regulations caused which problem exactly?

    Was it government regulations that cause doctors to commit tortious acts on their patients? Was it government regulations that caused mines to dump toxic waste in the nearest body of water? Was it government regulation that cause stock manipulators to manipulate stock?

    I could go on, but the fact is, people first go around violating other people’s “freedoms and liberties” and only then do the people stand up and say “what can we do to stop these people from violating our freedom and liberty in a society”?

    That’s when people say we need some regulation, not before.

    The crime always comes before a law against it.

  10. Anonymous says:

    And, “tort reform”?

    Can anyone explain how we could have that without the government making another regulation?

    Geez.

  11. Rincon says:

    I have to agree with Barbara’s suggestions, at least for the most part, but I don’t see how they will create more doctors, except for the one regarding expanding who can deliver health care. I think that can only take us so far, although I for one would like to propose that veterinarians be allowed to work on people. We’re experts at keeping costs down.

    We either have to graduate more students, import more, or find ways to keep doctors from making more busy work for themselves. The way it is now, doctors are like the group of blind men trying to describe an elephant. You see a gastroenterologist for your GI signs, a neurologist for your headache, a pulmonologist for your cough, and then the infectious disease specialist finally diagnoses your case of the flu. The GP of course, is the one who sends you to all of the specialists and then takes a cut for not knowing what to do for you.

    My friend with the hyperthyroidism, easily treatable with cheap medication, has now seen a GP, an endocrinologist, radiologist, and an ophthalmic surgeon for treating complications that never would have occurred if the GP would have merely followed the recipe (yes, it’s pretty much a cookbook) and treated her when the diagnosis was made.

    I can also mention an active 91 year old who had a routine colonoscopy, which isn’t recommended for anyone that age in the first place. They found colon cancer and convinced her to have surgery. She never left institutional care after the surgery and died about 8 months later, burning through about $600,000 in fees. The cancer wouldn’t have been a problem for about 5 years had they done nothing.

    I could go on and on, but I already have.

  12. Steve says:

    So, in your field Rincon, you see the benefits of fewer regulation but in others regulation and control is the only way.

    Funny how that works.

  13. Rincon says:

    Perhaps I was too subtle. My tongue was firmly in my cheek.

  14. dave72 says:

    I’m not sure which would be a greater blow to one’s career. Graduate from medical school in Nevada and NOT get the hell out of here, or graduate with a teaching degree and take a piss-poor paying job in Nevada teaching young’uns who really don’t want to learn — then be blamed for their poor showing.

  15. […] residency positions to keep pace with those graduates in Nevada,” said Heller back in June, as reported in a number of rural newspapers. “The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act increases the number of hospital residency […]

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