Strengthening the Primary Care and the Physician Workforce


Issue: Increase investments in federal programs that support and expand the primary care physician workforce, such as funding for Graduate Medical Education (GME), loan deferment initiatives, enable international medical graduates (IMGs) to practice in rural and underserved areas, and fund federal health professions programs that expand primary care training and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the health care workforce.

Why Action is Needed:

It is estimated that there will be a shortage of 17,800 to 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034. A 2021 report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine called on policymakers to dramatically increase investment in primary care. The evidence clearly shows that high-quality primary care is critical for achieving health care’s quadruple aim (enhancing patient experience, improving population health, reducing costs, and improving the health care team experience). Medical students and residents are playing a critical role in furnishing care to patients while many of them carry an average debt of over $200,000. These physicians-in-training serve an integral role in the delivery of health care in the United States. With the growing demands being placed on the existing workforce it is even more imperative to protect patients’ access to care by assisting these clinicians serving on the frontlines and to increase the number of future physicians in the pipeline.

ACP’s Position

The federal government should increase its funding for programs and initiatives that increase the number of physicians and other health care professionals providing care for all communities, including for racial and ethnic communities that are historically underserved and disenfranchised. Accordingly, Congress should increase the number of GME positions it supports, ease the medical education debt burden for trainees by deferring interest on their student loans, reauthorize and expand the Conrad 30 program that makes it possible for IMGs to practice in underserved communities, and increase funding for Title VII health professions programs to improve diversity and expand the primary-clinician pipeline. ACP has provided ongoing feedback and recommendations to Congress about bipartisan solutions to invest in the physician workforce and how investment in primary care is vital in that effort. In an ACP statement submitted to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, ACP outlines steps Congress can take to foster a more robust physician workforce.

Call to Action

  • Support the Resident Education Deferred Interest (REDI) Act, H.R. 1202/S. 704, which would allow borrowers to qualify for interest-free deferment on their student loans while in a medical or dental internship or residency program.
  • Support the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2023, H.R 2389/S. 1302, which would gradually raise the number of Medicare-supported GME positions by 2,000 per year for seven years.
  • Support the Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act, H.R. 4942/S. 665. This bipartisan legislation would reauthorize the program for three years, simplify the visa process, enhance workplace protections for physicians, and, most importantly, increase the number of waivers available to states beyond the thirty currently available, if certain requirements are met.
  • Support a funding increase for Title VII health programs administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), such as the Primary Care Training and Enhancement Program. ACP also strongly supports Title VII workforce diversity programs, including Centers of Excellence, Health Career Opportunity Programs, and Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students.