by Bruce Japsen, Contributor
Enrollment in U.S. medical schools is on track to jump by 30% within five years after universities opened more programs and made other changes, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The association, which represents all 141 accredited U.S. medical schools and nearly 400 teaching hospitals, said first-year medical school enrollment will reach 21,304 in the 2019-20 school year. It’s just 130 positions short of a goal the association, known as the AAMC, called for in 2006 as one of the nation’s leading advocates to address a doctor shortage.
AAMC said more medical schools have opened while existing universities have expanded programs or tweaked curricula to get students interested in certain medical disciplines. For example, 72% of medical schools told AAMC they were planning “at least one initiative” to increase interest in primary care specialties.
Primary care professions of all kinds are needed as insurance companies and government health programs like Medicare and Medicaid emphasize paying for value over reimbursing doctors for volume of tests and procedures in the traditional fee-for-service medicine. Insurers like Aetna (AET), Anthem (ANTM), Cigna (CI), Humana (HUM) and UnitedHealth Group (UNH) reported in their first quarter earnings that they are ramping up payments for care coordination, which emphasizes primary care and outreach to patients.
Though the interest in becoming a doctor somewhat addresses a physician shortage, it doesn’t solve the problem. After medical school, these potential future graduates still have to enter a residency program.
And with residencies funded by the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly, it would take an act of Congress to increase the number of slots.
“Without an increase in federally funded residency training positions, all these new medical school graduates may not be able to complete their training and become practicing physicians,” said Dr. Darrell Kirch, AAMC’s president and chief executive said in a statement accompanying the report.