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Society of Interventional Radiology backs GME reallocations

SIR says reallocation of federally funded GME to new specialties, new medical programs, and rural hospitals will improve access to care

Fairfax, Va. (May 19, 2016)—The Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) supports a newly introduced bill that would expand access to government-funded graduate medical education (GME) opportunities to newly recognized primary specialties, such as interventional radiology.

The “Enhancing Opportunities for Medical Doctors Act,” introduced on May 11 by Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, would reallocate existing, but historically unused, government-funded slots to specialties recently elevated to the “primary specialty” designation (such as interventional radiology), rural institutions and new medical schools.

“This bill provides immediate assistance to key residency training programs by tapping existing, unused Medicare-authorized GME resources,” said SIR President Charles E. Ray Jr., M.D., FSIR, an interventional radiologist, professor and chair of the department of radiology at the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Simply put, this bill will help ensure that America will continue to lead the world in providing access to advanced medical care.”

Hospitals that train residents incur costs beyond those customarily associated with providing patient care. The Medicare-authorized payment program compensates teaching hospitals for "Medicare's share" of the costs directly related to the training of residents.

Due to a cap on federally funded GME slots, newer primary specialties and medical programs found themselves closed out of Medicare-funded GME because slots were already committed, even when they remain unused. Current law does not allow for increased Medicare-funded GME slots if a new medical specialty, such as interventional radiology, which received its specialty designation in 2012, or new medical training program is designated. Instead, a teaching hospital that establishes such a program is faced with either reducing the number of Medicare-covered residency slots in another program or operating the new program with partial or no Medicare GME funding.

“This proposal takes a fiscally responsible and targeted approach to addressing some of the most urgent and important needs for the future of advancing medical training,” said Ray. “We appreciate Congresswoman Love’s attention to these unique issues, and we look forward to working with her and her colleagues in Congress as they continue to study how to ensure that America has a medical training system that is ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.”

Under the proposals, programs would be required to make 65 percent of historically unused slots eligible for reallocation. The slots slated to be reallocated will be redistributed to hospitals that apply for them with priority given to the following: 1) hospitals that establish residency programs for interventional radiology or another recently elevated specialty; 2) hospitals located in rural and underserved areas; and 3) hospitals that establish medical residency programs that are sponsored by newly accredited medical schools. 

Such one-time redistributions were previously authorized under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 and the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

“Clearly, more comprehensive GME reform is necessary, but this bill serves as an important bridge by ensuring unused resources are tapped for training until an agreement on GME expansion can be reached,” said Ray.

About SIR

The Society of Interventional Radiology is a nonprofit, professional medical society representing more than 6,500 practicing interventional radiology physicians, scientists and clinical associates, dedicated to improving patient care through the limitless potential of image-guided therapies. SIR’s members work in a variety of settings and at different professional levels—from medical students and residents to university faculty and private practice physicians.

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Media contact information

Elise Castelli
SIR Senior Manager, Communications and Public Relations
Phone: (703) 460-5572 
Email: ecastelli@sirweb.org