American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

1,000 Osteopathic Medical Students and Physicians Lobby for Student Debt Relief, Support for Primary Care

VA Secretary McDonald Addressed American Osteopathic Association Representatives, Outlined Plans for 1,500 New VA Residency Slots at DO Day March 5

WASHINGTON, March 5, 2015—The American Osteopathic Association’s annual DO Day on Capitol Hill this year focuses on the need to build the physician workforce through student loan debt relief and programs that support careers in primary care medicine.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald addressed 1,000 osteopathic medical students and physicians this morning, discussing the VA’s plan to add 1,500 new primary care residency positions over the next three years at its facilities. The national shortage of primary care physicians was cited as key factor in lengthy waits for appointments at VA facilities, making access to primary care a critical issue for veterans. 

Although the weather on Capitol Hill precluded many of today’s scheduled meetings with legislators, the group remains committed to advocacy, utilizing social media and other communication channels to educate members of Congress about osteopathic medicine and the policy issues affecting DOs.

DO Day, named for the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree awarded to graduates of osteopathic medical schools, is a forum to address issues impacting new and existing osteopathic physicians. Currently, more than one out of four medical students is enrolled in a college of osteopathic medicine. Historically, about 60 percent of DOs choose primary care specialties, making the fast-growing profession an important solution to the nation’s physician shortage.

While that shortage is expected to surpass 45,000 physicians by 2020, several policy reforms are needed to assist student physicians in pursuing careers in primary care.

“It’s easy to see why students are turning to the highest paid specialties, despite their desire to practice primary care medicine. Osteopathic medical students graduate with an average of $220,000 in student loan debt and digging out of that hole is overwhelming, particularly as they watch the interest accrue during their years of residency,” said Robert Juhasz, DO, president of the American Osteopathic Association.

With student loan debt at an all-time high and payment levels that haven’t increased since 2002, the American Osteopathic Association urges lawmakers to reform Medicare's physician payment system and repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula.

“The current SGR formula allows for uncertainty when it comes to physician compensation,” added Dr. Juhasz. “We need payment models that align incentives for physicians to practice the highest quality of care, maintain access to patient-centered care and decrease costs.”

Additionally, the American Osteopathic Association strongly supports legislation and policies that enable medical school graduates to pursue careers based on their interests rather than their financial obligations. Specific recommendations include:

  • Reauthorize the Higher Education Act with favorable student debt and loan forgiveness programs;

  • Revise the cap on residency slots targeted to primary care, general surgery, other medical specialties facing shortages;

  • Increase training opportunities in community-based settings such as the Teaching Health Center GME Program;

  • Support new and innovative models for the distribution of GME funding;

  • Advance proposals that provide for transparency and accountability in the use of GME funding; and

  • Incentivize physician payment models that reward high-quality care.

About the American Osteopathic Association

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 110,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at www.osteopathic.org.

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Media Contacts:   

Sheridan Chaney   
(312) 202-8043
schaney@osteopathic.org

Lauren Brush
(312) 202-8161
lbrush@osteopathic.org

 

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