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Pallone and Murray Announce Bill to Permanently Authorize and Expand the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program

Jun 2, 2021
Press Release
Legislation Would Fund an Additional 100 New Programs in High-Need Communities & Create an Estimated 1,600 New Resident Physician Slots

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) today announced legislation to permanently authorize the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program to support the training of primary care medical and dental residents with a focus on supporting residents in high-need communities. The bill was introduced in the House yesterday and will be introduced in the Senate next week.

The Doctors of Community (DOC) Act permanently authorizes the THCGME program, provides increased and sustained annual funding at over $500 million per year for fiscal years 2024-2033, and increases the number of residency slots available each year. Currently, the program is funded at $126.5 million per year. If enacted, the bill would support community health continuity by bringing a reliable stream of doctors to communities of color, rural communities, and other high-need communities with funding for an additional 100 new THCGME programs in communities across the country and creating an estimated 1,600 new resident physician slots, the largest expansion to the program in more than two decades. 

“Primary care physicians are the keystone of our nation’s health care system and are all too often the only providers in rural and high-need communities,” Pallone said. “Unfortunately, we are increasingly facing a shortage of these vital frontline providers across the country, which will only continue to grow unless Congress acts. The DOC Act will help address this shortage by providing permanent, reliable funding to train the next generation of primary care providers in some of the most medically underserved communities across the country. I look forward to working with Senator Murray to get this critical legislation passed and signed into law.” 

“We need more primary care physicians — that was true before this pandemic and it’s truer than ever now,” Murray said. “The Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program is a critical pipeline that not only trains health care providers but brings them to communities of color, Tribal communities, rural communities, and so many other underserved areas. For years now, we’ve extended funding for this program on a bipartisan basis and expanded it in the wake of this pandemic, most recently in the American Rescue Plan. Extending funding for teaching health centers permanently just makes sense. That’s why Congressman Pallone and I are introducing the DOC Act. Families in Washington state and across the country need reliable health care close to home, and ensuring reliable funding for these programs will help make sure they can get it for years to come.”

The THCGME program supports the training of primary care physicians through annual funding authorized and appropriated by Congress. The program serves vulnerable populations by funding the training of residents in community-based settings, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Clinics, and tribal health centers. The majority of THCGME training sites are located in medically underserved areas and the majority of patients served are covered by Medicaid. Current funding for the THCGME program is set to expire in fiscal year 2023.

The DOC Act is supported by the American Association of Teaching Health Centers, National Association of Community Health Centers, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, Council of Academic Family Medicine, the American Osteopathic Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society of General Internal Medicine. 

Bill text is available here

One-pager is available here