GOP Only Wants To Fund Graduate Medical Education If It's Not In The Health Care Law

July 29, 2011 10:39 am ET — Meredith Kormes

Rep. Paul Ryan

Yesterday in a bi-partisan effort the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a bill that would reauthorize funding for Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME). President Obama had proposed eliminating the funding, which helps children's hospitals maintain their graduate residency programs, in his FY 2012 budget. 

HHS Secretary Sebelius noted in her testimony at a March 3 Energy and Commerce hearing that the reductions in the president's budget "reflect tough choices," and that some "are cuts we would not have made absent the fiscal situation."

Even Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) acknowledged in his written remarks at Tuesday's markup hearing: "Secretary Sebelius told this subcommittee that while she regretted eliminating CHGME funding, the Department had to prioritize where scarce resources would go. I agree. In a fiscal situation like the one we find ourselves in, priorities have to be set, and difficult decisions have to be made." But Pitts ultimately disagreed with the secretary and the president that the CHGME funding should be on the chopping block because "[t]his is a bill about the health and lives of this nation's children. And, it is a fiscally responsible bill, continuing the CHGME program at its current authorization."

Yet, the irony is that just two months ago, Rep. Pitts and every other Republican member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to rescind funding for graduate medical education in teaching health centers. The difference is that that funding was a part of the Affordable Care Act.  

So despite the well-documented shortage of doctors and Republican complaints that the new health care law does nothing to address the doctor shortage, Republicans voted for a bill that would cut funding that would help "reduce the workforce strain in underserved areas" of the country. Not only that, but the primary care residency programs that are affiliated with teaching health centers also include pediatric residency programs. And according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, "[p]hysicians trained in health centers are more than 3 times as likely to work in a health center and more than twice as likely to work in an underserved area than those not trained at health centers."

In fact, Republicans' defense of that bill focused on how the graduate medical education program was funded via the Affordable Care Act, rather than on the funds they are were taking away from the program.

No one is questioning the benefits of the CHGME program, but if Republicans had really wanted to address the doctor shortage in this country or help children, they wouldn't have previously voted to cut the funding for graduate medical education. But they did, simply because it was in the health care law they love to hate.