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Addressing rural physician shortages – the urgent need for licensing reform

Think the federal government’s plan to add extra residency slots for health professional shortage areas will alleviate the growing rural physician shortage? Think again. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published research showing that of the 400 newly federally funded residency slots, a mere 20 residents spend more than half their time in rural shortage areas.

Physician shortages are expanding around the country and are even more severe in certain urban areas and most rural areas. Nationally, the United States will be short 124,000 physicians by 2035. Some 80% of rural areas in the United States are medically underserved, and the government projects a continued decline in the number of doctors practicing in rural areas. And the exodus of healthcare workers away from the profession over the last few years only exacerbates the problem.

To help solve this issue, Missouri created a pathway to limited practice for medical school graduates who don’t complete residency training after school. Idaho is funding additional residency slots on its own. And Tennessee is opening the door to doctors licensed outside the United States. Other states can and should work to address these shortages, too.

Read the full piece in The Center Square.